More VFX than Meets the Eye in Olympus Has Fallen
With the White House secured by the villain Kang (Rick Yune – The Man with the Iron Fists, Die Another Day), the film moves inside. “Both the Pentagon Crisis Room and the Presidential Bunker had a very large monitor wall and both rooms were filled with smaller monitors as well,” said Jacobs. “All those monitors needed content. We produced some generic loops which played for background shots but the vast majority of the content was added in post.”
Later in the film, the Pentagon tries to retake the White House by launching a mission using six Black Hawk helicopters. Kang and his terrorists, anticipating the assault, have installed a next-generation anti-aircraft weapon on the roof of the White House. The Black Hawk choppers quickly find themselves engaged in a tremendous battle over the South lawn of the White House.
Persistence of Vision handled the initial previs, which was then further refined by the animators at WWFX in Bulgaria. Live-action plates shot by the production included the helicopter interiors, shot in front of a blue screen using a fiberglass replica of a Black Hawk on a six-axis hydraulic motion base. “Once again, we were forced into a situation where we couldn’t shoot practical elements for much of the sequence,” said Jacobs.
The Black Hawk sequence ends with the last remaining helicopter crashing into the White House and creating a huge explosion, destroying a large portion of the White House. “We were able to shoot some large practical explosions in Bulgaria to help with the realism,” recalls Jacobs. “Still, almost the entire frame is CG.”
As Jacobs notes, his mission is to transform the director’s vision into a final film that entertains the audience, capturing their attention without distracting them with visual effects. As he noted, “Our goal with the film was to support Antoine’s storytelling and only take the focus when the script demanded that kind of spectacle. Probably 60-70% of the visual effects in the film are invisible effects. If the audience doesn’t stop to think about how we did it, we’ve done our job.”
Dan Sarto is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Animation World Network.