Framestore Creates Main Title Sequence for Skyfall
"Framestore did a great job on the VFX for the title sequence, working with the very talented Daniel Kleinman on his sixth Bond titles. This team always produce great visuals and we were really pleased with the final results."
-- Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (EON Productions)
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, long-time collaborators Daniel Kleinman and Framestore have teamed up for the fifth time to deliver a spectacular opening title sequence for Skyfall.
The arrival of Daniel Craig as 007 in Casino Royale – Framestore’s last title sequence for the franchise – marked a shift to a darker, deeper, deadlier Bond, and Skyfall most certainly continues in this direction. The four-minute sequence opens underwater as Bond sinks lifelessly into the gloom, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest. Kleinman’s creative direction sends us spiralling on a psychological journey into Bond’s subconscious as he drifts closer and closer to death.
In the very early days of the project Daniel Kleinman presented Framestore with a first round of storyboards which were developed in 3D pre-visualisation. Framestore collaborated with partner company ‘The Third Floor’ to develop the project from still images to a moving animatic, this helped to refine concepts and the sense of continuous movement that both Sam Mendes and Danny Kleinman sought.
Next a live action shoot captured specific performances and elements for the title sequence. Taking place over several days at Pinewood Studios the set included an underwater tank shoot for that opening drowning shot, a day with Daniel Craig to shoot actions for both the titles and the iconic ‘gun barrel sequence’ and a day of dancing girls and guys with guns.
William Bartlett, who regularly works with Kleinman, was VFX Supervisor on the project, he was joined by Diarmid Harrison-Murray (Head of 3D Commercials) and Russell Dodgson (Head of Nuke Commercials). Framestore’s team started to discuss how they would approach the challenging piece and pull together the various scenes laid out in the pre-vis.
"One of the more challenging aspects of a job like this is to give the artists room to develop ideas, with the understanding that some might be dropped or changed as the job evolves,' says Dodgson 'The aim is for a cohesive sequence, that feels like it comes from one person’s mind. No one can be too precious about their own pixels!"
To that end, throughout the four month post-production schedule, many parts of the sequence developed, evolved and were re-designed in order to achieve a unified look.
One of the keys to the development of the piece was in keeping a tight, highly experienced core team of 2D and 3D artists. Between these individuals sequences were developed in parallel with regular input from the director.
Framestore’s Head of 3D Commercials, Diarmid Harrison-Murray, said: “This flexible way of working requires a different mindset but provides a great opportunity for creative ownership. By assigning all the VFX work – from setup, animation through to lighting – across an entire scene to just one artist, that person is able to develop their scene as a whole, rather than just contributing one smaller element to it. One great example of complete creative ownership is Martin Aufinger’s beautiful and technically accomplished CG dragons. It’s an incredibly satisfying way to work.”
The CG team had a huge variety of tasks to accomplish spanning 3D environments, fluid simulations, volumetric atmospherics, skulls, gravestones and a complex 3D character. All of which had to be created in a relatively short amount of time.
One of the biggest 3D challenges was the creation of several full 3D volumetric environments such as the heart and skull sequence. This part of the sequence is made up of hundreds of blood veins all pulsating to the shot’s centre element – a heart that transforms into a skull.