More VFX than Meets the Eye in Olympus Has Fallen
The action-driven realism of Director Antoine Fuqua’s new film, Olympus Has Fallen, should come as no surprise, given his track record (Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest) for gritty, urban-centered dramas. The practical realities of making this film, however, precluded cordoning off sections of city streets while rolling cameras. Though the majority of the film takes place in Washington DC, the film’s producers chose to base their production in Shreveport, Louisiana. The “good ol’ South” was going to have to double for the capital of the U.S., which meant senior visual effects supervisor Evan Jacobs would face some significant challenges as the film’s VFX shot count and sequence complexity continued to grow.
The continually expanding scope of VFX work, coupled with a tight post-production schedule, further added to the challenges Jacobs faced. The shot count grew to 1,300, all to be delivered just four and a half months after completion of principal photography. To ensure deadlines were met, Jacobs split the work between four facilities. WorldwideFX, with offices in Bulgaria and Shreveport was the lead facility, handling the vast majority of the work. BaseFX in Beijing, China and Ghost VFX in Denmark split the remaining shots.
Looking for ways to jump start VFX production, Jacobs first focused on an aerial attack sequence. “While still in pre-production we tried to identify any VFX work we could start right away, even before one frame of film had been shot,” recalls Jacobs. “The C-130 attack sequence was one of the sequences we focused on early.”
This complex aerial sequence involved a surprise attack by a modified Lockheed C-130 cargo airplane. When the C-130 is intercepted by two F-22 fighter jets, it shoots them down utilizing hidden Gatling guns in its fuselage. The plane then flies right into the heart of DC, causing considerable damage and leaving tremendous destruction in its wake. The C-130 is finally brought down by a third F-22’s missile, crashing into the Washington Monument on its way down. The Monument, badly damaged, gives way moments later, collapsing onto innocent tourists below.
As Jacobs explained, “We determined early on that we were not going to be able to shoot aerial background plates, or plates of the planes for that matter. Since much of the sequence would be CG, we could start most of the work long before a director’s cut would be available. This allowed us to make the most of the little time we had.”