Modus FX Makes Magic for Now You See Me
“This is an exciting scene and has the spontaneous feel of The Beatles’ rooftop concert in Let It Be, with people coming out of their offices to watch from the streets,” commented Brinton. “The difference with the 5Pointz scene was that nobody was actually there. We had to create the whole wild get-together – crowd, traffic jam and helicopters – in CG.”
After the empty building and surrounding streets were filmed from the air, Modus removed all of the production footprint from these plates, including lights, film crew and cranes. Modus populated the roof, courtyard, streets and sidewalks with the digital partygoers using Massive Crowd Simulation software. They used their in-house mocap studio to create animation cycles for the crowd. Streets were lined with cars to create traffic jams, four CG helicopters circle the sky around the party and CG lighting enhances the festive atmosphere.
The mirror box is a classic magician’s trick that is used to hide objects and Now You See Me uses it on a grand scale. The thieves create a room-sized mirror box, with a 40-foot by 28-foot mirror that can be lowered at an angle to reflect the ground below, thus hiding the entire room behind it that houses the vault containing millions of dollars. Then, when one of the thieves throws a sledge hammer at the wall, it shatters the mirror into billions of pieces, revealing the vault behind it.
“Large parts of this shot are CG, including the thrown sledge hammer,” said Brinton. “We created a digital environment and made it fit with the surrounding practical set.
The actor threw the hammer from a distance so the mirror wouldn’t shatter on top of him. Modus started its work at this point, removing the shattered glass and structure on the ground from the shot. Then, they added dust and the reflection from the ground. The result is a stunning sequence in which slow motion both reveals the remarkable computer-generated detail and contributes to the dramatic tension in the scene.
An extended fight scene between FBI agent Rhodes (Ruffalo) and sleight-of-hand specialist Jack (Dave Franco) has the magician using his tricks to escape. He throws burning Euros and playing cards at Rhodes before miraculously escaping eighty feet down a garbage chute.
“This entire scene relied heavily on CG effects,” explained Brinton. “The look is more about style than practicality. The director wanted balls of fire coming at the FBI agent and the camera. We replaced the fire poker that Rhodes is swinging and the playing cards that Jack flings with virtual ones. This was all done in 2D in compositing and hand-animated inside Nuke.”
The garbage chute was a short, three-sided prop on the set. Modus extracted the actors and what was close to them from the plates, then extended the chute to make it look much longer. The prop was replaced with a digital chute that shows the actors sliding from the eighth floor to the ground.
Modus also created a car chase through the streets of New York, with cars flipping end over end in a sequence filmed entirely using greenscreens.
“With a movie like this one, in which illusions are at the center of the story, what we did was make the effects look like magic,” said Brinton. “We were able to break free and push the boundaries of the visible. I loved it.”
Directed by Louis Leterrier, Now You See Me is a Summit Entertainment picture and stars Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo and Jesse Eisenberg. Modus FX completed 227 shots for the movie. The film was released on May 31, 2013.
Source: Modus FX