Creating a Virtual Washington for White House Down
Hybride's main challenge (under the supervision of Philippe Theroux) was recreating a vibrant, realistic virtual city environment down to the smallest detail. The complexity of shots allowed Hybride to raise the bar on its technical expertise. The team developed innovative tools that facilitated the creation of an entirely virtual city -- traffic lights, street lamps, bicycle racks, road signage and advertising panels were automatically generated to maximize production time. Hybride also developed special tools to create and populate scene elements, including vegetation and vehicles, as well as a cutting-edge tool to populate trees and simulate their movement.
Due to the high level of shot complexity, Hybride used deep image compositing techniques to manage the sequence and maintain quality without compromising the level of detail desired. This new procedure helped overcome machine limitations experienced in the past.
One new tool that proved invaluable to Uncharted was the Ncam system, which enables virtual production through real-time camera tracking. This was used not only by the director and camera operators for the framing of virtual sets but also editorial for onset composites as a starting point for final shots. Weigert even used it for animating objects inside virtual scenes to cue extras and give correct eye lines to actors.
But Engel found Ncam indispensable for assisting with the White House rooftop attack shot on a stage. "Immediately instead of seeing a bluescreen, Roland saw the actual background of a fight on the rooftop. That way he could look at his monitor and decide to crane higher, say, for better composition."
But Uncharted couldn't resist doing some VFX shots when the right opportunity came along. "While doing the postvis, our guys put in the limo and the SUVs and knowing that they were not going to do final shots, they made them look so nice with all the reflections, that we let them work on the finals," Weigert admits.
Uncharted understands as well as anyone how to integrate VFX holistically into the process.
"We learned from Anonymous that a lot of things that happen very late are better served if world building assets are done early on," Weigert continues. "For example, if textures and shaders on buildings aren't done right, there's no time to redo them. By the time you notice it, it's too late. Our quality control unit looked at everything. We also got away with 400 fewer visual effects shots by not having so many bluescreeens behind windows. We did this by shooting the whole movie slightly overexposed."
It's all part of excelling as a production management company and staying ahead of the curve in these turbulent times.
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld and the owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com). He's also a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and contributing editor of Animation Scoop at Indiewire. Desowitz is additionally the author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.