Speed Metal Meets Tesla Coils in 'Metallica: Through the Never'
As heavy metal rock bands go, Metallica has played plenty of high charged concerts since hitting the stage back in 1981. But not even their most prolific performances can compare with the staged concert theatrics unleashed in their new film, Metallica: Through the Never, a 3-D onslaught wrapping a full concert around the story of a young roadie sent on an urgent mission by the band during a sold-out arena show, who runs right into a seemingly post-apocalyptic riot and gas-masked, horse-riding harvester of sorrow – the Death Dealer.
Director Nimród Antal (Predators, Kontroll) employed 24 cameras to film the 200 foot stage complete with an extensive array of pneumatics, hydraulics, lasers, trap doors, projection LEDs and pyrotechnics, over 185,000 pounds of equipment that included 5,000 pound coffins hanging from the ceiling, as well as 4 enormous Tesla Coils.
Visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis (Poseidon, Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) brought in Manitoba-based Opus VFX late in the production to handle a set of concert footage effects enhancements and augmentations. Opus vfx supervisor Mike Shand, along with vfx producer Brad Reinke, had worked with Boyd previously, a familiarity that along with their expertise in 3-D post-production and generous Canadian tax credits, got them the job.
Method’s Vancouver studio handled the main visual effects for the film’s narrative scenes. However, scheduling and commitment issues pushed the production to such a degree that there was little time to enhance the concert effects. Additionally, over time, the scope of the work increased as the producers wanted to add more effects and embellish the theatrics captured in the concert footage. Luckily, the work wasn’t so complex that it required one of the larger houses.
Coming in at the tail end of production meant little time and a small budget. According to Reinke, who along with Shand had worked with Shermis on Swordfish, this was a perfect project for a studio like Opus. “Being a boutique studio allowed for faster shot turnaround and greater communication. 3-D projects can feel very technical. You can get excellent, hands on work that is much more creative and artistic out of smaller boutique studios. The beauty of being a boutique house is that we can turn around shots much faster.”
Opus handled 18 shots over a period of 6 weeks. Their main involvement was concert footage augmentation, enhancing the onstage effects such as smoke, sparks, lighting effects, explosions and a wide range of particle effects. They were also involved in enhancing the 3-D by making the effects move towards the viewer. As Shand explained, “This was a very large shoot, a concert shoot with a big crowd and a lot of onset practical things going on. This created opportunities for us to digitally augment the practical effects to help tell the story and tie the whole experience together in an exciting way.”
The first major challenge was contending with the elaborate stage lighting. As Reinke described, “Imagine yourself sitting in a concert. Specifically, a Metallica concert. With smoke, fog, standard set lighting flashing on and off along with added laser lighting. There is no static lighting on any of these shots whatsoever. The density of the shots changed from frame to frame because there was so much activity involved. We had to work frame by frame and match all that color and lighting.”