Press release from DIVE:
PHILADELPHIA, PA — DIVE  delivered 145 shots as lead VFX house and provided Digital Intermediate Services on Director Brad Parker’s Chernobyl Diaries, which premiered nationally on Friday, May 25.
Parker selected DIVE, led by VFX Supervisor Mark O. Forker, to supervise effects on his dark thriller including environmental changes, 3D set extensions, and CG radiation effects. The film was shot mostly via handheld camera in Serbia with additional time in Budapest. It was imperative to Parker that DIVE re-create the post-nuclear disaster area as authentically as possible.
"Mark and his team at DIVE did a phenomenal job on the film,” says Parker. “He and I go way back and we've worked together on many projects, so he was my first choice to handle Chernobyl Diaries. I knew I could trust DIVE to do great work and Mark’s presence on-set in Serbia and Budapest was invaluable."
Directed by Parker and produced by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) and Brian Witten (Final Destination), Chernobyl Diaries is about a group of friends who embark on an “extreme tour” to Pripyat, the town previously populated by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor workers and their families. The group gets more than they bargained for when they realize that they are not alone.
DIVE’s main task was to tie the Serbian locations to the film’s actual historical markers in the Ukraine. One challenge was the set extension of a Ferris wheel. The tracking of the wheel was complicated since it appears in scenes shot without cranes or tripods to stabilize the camera.
“Production design completed approximately one-eighth of a practical piece of the Pripyat Ferris wheel as planned and DIVE’s task was to create the rest— either wholly, in slivers, or suggestions of it— throughout the film,” says Forker. “It was so important to nail the extension—the wheel is an iconic image of the abandoned city itself and it helped to ground the film in its location.”
"It was essential that viewers believe the film is taking place in the city of Pripyat,” says Parker. “Mark and his team were crucial to creating that realism and they succeeded."
DIVE also needed to manipulate the physical environment to reflect the mood of the film. While the team subtly dimmed the skies and removed light sources, interior and exterior shots were also darkened to highlight the desolation of Pripyat, making the city as dark, foreboding and isolating as possible.
Since DIVE was also the DI house for the project these types of color adjustments went very smoothly between the VFX and DI departments. “Doing the DI and the VFX all under one roof has proved very efficient and economical for our clients,” says Forker. On this project it was particularly beneficial because of the tight schedule.”
DIVE next managed the effects of radiation sickness on the inhabitants of Pripyat and its visitors. The “humanoids” were originally shot dressed with prosthetic make-up. DIVE was then tasked with continually altering the lighting on the actors to heighten their haunting qualities. Radiation sickness was added to two of the principal actors leading up to the climax of the film, which included a gradual facial degradation by incorporating burnt and peeling skin textures. Finally, mutated CG fish were added to a scene and patches were added to dogs to make them look further along in their state of radiation sickness.