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FutureWorks' VFX is ‘On Track’ with Realism and Emotion in ‘Darlings’ Finale

The studio delivers 500+ seamless VFX shots for the gripping climax – involving a railway showdown - of the Netflix original dark comedy about a young woman who takes revenge on her abusive alcoholic husband.

FutureWorks delivered over 500 visual effects shots for the Netflix film Darlings, a dark comedy that, according to the VFX studio, broke the streamer’s records for the largest opening weekend for a non-English language original film. It was also the directorial debut of Jasmeet K. Reen, who co-wrote the screenplay. The movie stars Alia Bhatt as a young woman, Badru, who takes revenge on her abusive alcoholic husband, Hamza, played by Vijay Varma. A nail-biting series of comic events eventually leads to a gripping showdown on a railway track, achieved through state-of-the-art visual effects.

*** Spoiler Alert ***

The VFX studio’s work centered on the movie’s finale, a scene involving Badru helping to tie her husband to the railway track to kill him. The audience is hooked at this point in the story, so the train scene ramps up the tension before delivering the main protagonist’s death, which is a huge shock. The pivotal sequence needed to have a big impact.

Since shooting at the real-life location was impossible, the filming took place on a bluescreen stage, with veteran DoP Anil Mehta at the helm. The team built a 200-meter set to mimic the location; a key challenge was to perfect the scene with seamless VFX while maintaining the sequence's realism.  

The VFX team, headed up by Supervisors Vinay Singh Chuphal and Ashoke Choudhury, coordinated with the direction, camera, and lighting departments to plan all shots.

“Once we had everything in place, we shot the train plates used as references for animation, lighting, and compositing,” explained Chuphal. “Shooting train plates as per chroma shots angles was not possible, so we had no option but to create a CGI train.”

“Previs was used to generate a rough plan of how the final shot would look like,” continued Chuphal. “This helped us visualize the final shot before production started so that everyone involved could work with clarity. The CGI team took care of creating the required train model, with all of its components correctly simulated, like doors, windows, and other details.”

The production process spanned three months, with FutureWorks developing concept art for the shots based on the storyline and storyboards provided by the assistant director. Next, the finalized composition was produced, based on the concept art, including the camera axes and magnification for each shot. Finally, the team used the reference shots taken on location to understand the lighting of a real railway track and for the VFX work to help create the final digital matte painting (DMP) backgrounds.

Said Vinay, “We used the same techniques to paint out the sky and ground, which helped give our shots a sense of depth.”

FutureWorks’ VFX team of 40+ artists, including 25 comp artists and seven CGI artists, collaborated closely with the filmmaking team. While building the sequence, they could check shots in the DI for color reference. In addition, having the DI in the studio during filming made it easier for the team to check the shots as they went along. The studio shots were then seamlessly blended with footage filmed on location to complete the dramatic set piece while ensuring high realism throughout the scene.

With so many moving parts, the nighttime train sequence was complex, with one of the more challenging shots involving the train passing over the camera at a 45-degree angle. As well as recreating a realistic city backdrop behind the train, the VFX team had to produce shots of the train hitting Hamza. With the CGI-heavy scene, the photorealistic shot needed to blend seamlessly with the rest of the film to ensure that the VFX was effectively invisible. The finale depended entirely on VFX to maximize the emotional impact on the audience.

“Shooting with the actors on set, our VFX team captured all possible information to achieve a realistic result in the post,” added Vinay. “Our matchmove team helped the CG team to get the perfect scale of the location, while the CGI team was also involved in setting up camera lenses and lighting conditions so that everything matched up correctly.”

After lighting, multiple passes were rendered out for the compositing team. Next, the VFX crew added a few more touches to boost the realism, including simulated dust particles and light bleeding through the train windows. Once the CGI render was complete, DMPs and shots were keyed and composited on Nuke.

“The seamless VFX work done on Darlings is incredible, and the different kinds of challenges the FutureWorks VFX team had to overcome are all very inspiring,” shared Reen. “I really enjoyed working with the FutureWorks VFX and DI team on Darlings. I don't think we would have been able to deliver the work on time without their dedication and planning.”

FutureWorks’ CEO Gaurav Gupta said, “We’re thrilled to have worked on such an exciting project. The train sequence in Darlings is an incredible moment, and we’re really proud to have helped bring one of the story’s most pivotal scenes to the screen in the most realistic way possible.”

Source: FutureWorks

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.