Trapped with the Devil
The Agatha Christie-like premise of Devil is that five strangers die one by one in the elevator. Not only do their various entrances into the building and the elevator comprise long takes, but also individual flashbacks that reveal their flawed characters. They shot both in Philadelphia (where Shyamalan lives) and Toronto. All of the helicopter shots were done in the former and the ground work in the latter. They used Maya, rendered in mental ray and composited in Nuke.
Anytime you see the elevator in the shaft, it's a full-CG environment. "We did some long pull outs and there are some set extensions as well," Passionino continues. We took a lot of pictures of existing shafts. Our BC office has an elevator there and took photos and we used that as reference. Some of the set piece had the look they wanted so we extended beyond that. We came up with an environment that suited the effect.
As for depicting the Devil, Zoic worked on the design of one Videodrome-like shot in which security guards think they see something creepy on the video monitor; however, the shot was finished by a crew member that's an art designer.
During the climactic showdown between the remaining two characters, Zoic helps reveal the true face of the Devil. "It was like chopping on a person's face and then joining cross dissolves of separate elements to reveal the final look of the Devil," Passionino suggests. "He realizes that he's losing control and then snaps back to the character again."
Another challenge was fixing greenscreen spill. "Because of the fact that it was such a small set, there wasn't a lot of set up for creating lighting on the characters separate from the lighting on the greenscreen," Passionino continues. We roto'd sections of characters and introduced a different color so the spill isn't as evident."
Passionino liked working on the first camera move because the helicopter plate offered an inverted perspective of the city. "They created a heightened unease, which was great fun and had us thinking outside the box," he concludes.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.