'Rush': Blurring the Line Between Production and Post
Double Negative's VFX contribution to Ron Howard's Rush, the fact-based Formula 1 rivalry in the '70s between drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), was very much about helping create the distinctive look, which captured the colorful sex, glam and energy of the period.
However, Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire) didn't have the budget to recreate the various race tracks and locales throughout the Formula 1 circuit, so he had to develop a way of creating his own unique production values with archival footage.
"The editors gathered together hours and hours and hours of racing footage (both 35mm and 16mm), and we got together with Ron and Anthony and looked at ways of using the material, explains Double Negative VFX supervisor Jody Johnson. "We needed to work out if it was going to be useful and, if so, how we could use it. We looked at production value, storytelling moments and stylistic compatibility.
"There were a lot of characters in the pit lane and visually it's very colorful, very graphic and very messy. There was lots of movement, and the cars are very beautiful and the tracks were often set in interesting landscapes such as Monaco and Fuji. Ron wanted each race to have its own look and energy.
"We identified what would hold up in the film. We went back to original neg and scanned that and took it back to DNeg and shot tests on the various camera formats Andrew was using (the Alexa, the Canon C300, the miniature IndieCam), and we put together little edits with mixed media and worked to blend them. At one extreme, we'd have the Alexa and at the other extreme we'd have broken archive material. And we brought them closer together by making the archival footage look cleaner, more modern and more stable. We also did the inverse to some of the Alexa tests and ended up with an edit with all different file formats that didn't bump. Anthony didn't it want to be a mixed media film. He wanted it to be cohesive, so we explored degraining, stabilizing, getting rid of dirt and scratches. We also tracked a lot of the archive material and digitally reprojected some of the areas of the negative back unto itself if it was too damaged to repair."
For example, at Nürburgring, there was a helicopter shot over the grandstand that Howard really liked, but he didn't have the right cars, the colors and grain were inconsistent and helicopter movement was all over the place. So DNeg tracked it, stabilized it, rebuilt some of the architecture (such as the roof of the grandstand) and then added the correct cars and VFX and wet down the track.