More VFX than Meets the Eye in Olympus Has Fallen
Pixomondo (Hugo, Oblivion) handled previs for the sequence, sending a team to the production offices in Shreveport to handle the work. This allowed for quick revisions and close editorial collaboration. Upon sequence approval, the C-130 attack shots were split between BaseFX, responsible for the majority of the aerial shots including the Monument collapse, and WWFX who worked on the scene’s “ground-based” shots.
The movie’s opening sequence proved quite challenging as well. Set around the snow covered presidential retreat, Camp David, located in Maryland, the Presidential motorcade is involved in a tragic accident while driving on an icy mountain road during a blizzard. The President’s limo teeters precariously over the edge of a bridge.
“While planning the sequence, it became clear that we were going to have to approach nearly every exterior driving shot as entirely CG,” recalls Jacobs. “There was no viable way for us to even shoot elements for those shots given we were shooting in the South, in the middle of summer with temperatures over 100°F on most days.”
Ultimately, Jacobs brought in Ghost VFX for the majority of the shots in the sequence, while several matte paintings were created by WorldwideFX. “The reality is that in these extreme weather conditions you wouldn’t have much visibility,” recalls Jeppe Nygaard Christensen, VFX Supervisor for Ghost. “We had to strike a creative balance.”
As the story jumps forward eighteen months to July 5th, the White House and its DC surroundings become the focus of attention, front and center, for rest of the film. Production Designer Derek Hill and his team located an empty field in Shreveport and recreated the North Lawn of the White House including the lower portion of the main house, the circular drive, guard shack and fence.
Though the film’s art department built an extensive live-action set, a significant amount of mostly invisible VFX was employed to bring the White House to life. This included adding the portico and roof of the main White House building, both the East and West wings, all the trees on the North lawn, all the surrounding buildings, and Lafayette Park across the street. Most shots also required additional action enhancements such as blood, smoke, production fixes and clean-ups.
As the story unfolds, the crash of the C-130 proves to be just the beginning of the full terrorist assault. The main action begins with a full-scale ground attack on the North lawn of the White House. Soon, the President and his cabinet are taken hostage in the nuclear-hardened underground bunker. Every secret service agent in the White House is dead, except our hero, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler – 300, Law Abiding Citizen).
“Antoine often described the scene as something akin to the landing on Normandy beach in WWII,” recalled Scott Coulter, Visual Effects Producer for WWFX. “He wanted lots of chaos and action and almost every shot in the sequence required VFX.”