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Cinesite Creates VFX For HBO Mini-Series Generation Kill

Cinesite has completed all visual effects for the HBO mini-series GENERATION KILL, which will broadcast starting July 13 on HBO. The seven-episode series is based upon the highly successful book by journalist Evan Wright, which was published in 2004, and won the LOS ANGELES TIMES book award as well as several other prestigious prizes.

Cinesite created around 450 visual effects shots for the series, which is directed by Susanna White and Simon Cellan Jones. VFX Supervisor for HBO was Adam McInnes and for Cinesite Dave Sewell and Stuart Partridge. Cinesite's CG Supervisor was Stephane Paris.

GENERATION KILL follows Marine platoon Bravo Two of Bravo Company, First Marine Reconnaissance Battalion, at the spearhead of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The action covers a one-month period up to and including the fall of Baghdad, with the story being told at ground level, from the gritty and shocking perspective of the Marine unit traveling in a small convoy of Humvees. Wright was embedded with the platoon throughout the initial assaults on Iraq for a series of articles in ROLLING STONE.

The production went to great efforts to achieve realism in every respect, filming as much action in camera as possible and using authentic military vehicles and equipment wherever possible. Cinesite worked closely with production Military Adviser Eric Kocher to enhance shots where this was not possible and to recreate the epic scale of battle digitally, on a massive scale.

Cinesite's work included the creation of convoys of photorealistic CGI military vehicles, missiles, burning oil fires, CGI attack aircraft, the destruction of Iraqi cities as the Allies advance and realistically portraying the colossal resources of the American army. All of the visual effects are invisible, so as to not detract from the drama of the historic conflict being depicted.

Fourteen types of CGI vehicle were created in all, each requiring modeling using accurate imagery and technical data, then complex texturing and animation. Procedural systems were written to create automatic vibration and suspension for the vehicles to give a realistic impression of vehicle weight and movement when driving over hills or bumpy ground.

To add further realism, tire tracks from vehicles traversing dusty and impressionable desert ground were added. Even the dust kicked up by the wheels of the numerous vehicles was recreated digitally.

Several key visual effects shots show the scale of U.S. military resources. A sequence in the first episode shows the American base Camp Matilda. In one wide, establishing shot, the environment is a 3-D matte painting, CGI tents have been created and replicated into the distance, and CGI vehicles and soldiers have been added.

Another sequence, in episode two, shows the allies advancing their Humvee towards Iraq in a massive convoy of vehicles. The Humvee travels across an overhead road bridge and we see the soldiers' view of a wide "superhighway," with a multitude of CGI Light Armored Vehicles, tanks, Humvees and supply trucks.

"This sequence of four shots was immensely challenging: even the environment has been digitally created," Sewell said. The order of the vehicles in the convoy was created as authentically as possible, with careful consultation with Military Adviser Eric Kocher.

This is not the first time that HBO and Cinesite have worked together on visual effects. Cinesite's visual effects for the mini-series ROME were awarded an Emmy in 2005, and their work on the highly-acclaimed mini-series BAND OF BROTHERS earned an Emmy nomination and a Royal Television Society Award in 2001.

Cinesite's work on New Line Cinema's THE GOLDEN COMPASS was recently awarded both an Oscar and BAFTA for vfx. Cinesite also worked on all films in the HARRY POTTER series, creating both visual effects and physical models.