Montreal Facilities Collaborate on Source Code
According to Moreau, the most interesting part of the project was dealing with continuity between shots, both in terms of the quality of the VFX work, and with the illusion of the train’s speed. “Even though we had all the necessary footage from a real train, shot with a three-camera rig to cover a very wide view of the background, we worked hard to maintain the illusion of constant speed and the position of the horizon line from shot to shot.”
“Imagine yourself in the train next to the window and you go past trees and buildings and there’s light occlusion,” added Morin. “There are highlights, lowlights, and, with the movement, there is constant variation. The ‘imperfection’ of reality is really subtle, but it’s critical to capture that imperfection for the CG to be invisible. Rodeo achieved this by applying the difference in positive and negative highlights to blend the plates of the exterior shots with the interior lighting. This was painstaking postproduction work.”
Oblique FX - Explosion and Stunt Double
Oblique FX contributed 46 shots to the film including a complex CG bomb, a dramatic interior explosion shot in slow motion, and a digital stunt double of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character as he jumps off a moving train and rolls to a stop on the platform.
For the explosion sequences, the studio created two replicas of the train interior. A full-scale model with dummies matching the actors’ positions was used for interior train explosions. A second version was positioned vertically so that Morin and his team could capture explosions at 1000 fps moving upwards through the interior towards the camera. Oblique FX then artfully combined the live-action plates with CG to create a realistic look with a poetic feel.
“The digital double was an artistic challenge because we had to animate Jake rolling along the platform and bring everything together so it’s believable,” said Alexandre Lafortune, visual effects supervisor, Oblique FX. “The movement is violent and jarring. We’ve done crowds before and wider shots of CG people, but a single figure that needed to blend seamlessly with live-action shots of the actor at the beginning and end of the shot was a new challenge.”
The studio used Natural Motion’s Endorphin software. “It’s a mix of simulation and keyframe animations,” Lafortune explained. “Duncan wanted us to try simulating it and Endorphin lets you rig the character and throw him against a surface to see what happens. We started with that to get the physics for the motion and the speed of the train worked out.”
“Source Code was a special project for us and we really enjoyed the teamwork with our partners,” said Pierre-Simon Lebrun-Chaput, visual effects supervisor, Oblique FX. “It was a great example of how facilities can collaborate on a film, each bringing their individual strengths to the project.”
Fly Studio - Pod and Transitions
Fly Studio specializes in creative motion graphics as well as visual effects. For Source Code, the company was called on to create the transitional shots between the pod and the train, as well as more than 100 monitor replacements. The pod is the surreal space from which Gyllenhaal’s character interacts with his military controller, played by Vera Farmiga. Fly Studio created the transitions for those shots.
“The transitional shots from the pod to the train and back were pretty much open to our ideas,” explained FLY Studio’s VFX supervisor on the project Jean-Pierre Boies. “We tested lots of different ways of transitioning – different layering of graphics, 3D meshes and a lot of effects added on top of it to create the final result.”
FLY Studio also added condensation to the actor’s breath inside the pod – an example of a subtle effect that greatly enhances the verisimilitude of some scenes. “Lots of movies are doing it by creating particles and compositing them in, but we decided to shoot our own live elements for this,” explained Boies. “We brought a Canon 5D camera to shoot some tests inside in a meat freezer at -15 or -20 Celsius. The test shots worked out so well, we ended up using them.”