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Hybride Produces Undetectable Olympic Games Sequence VFX for ‘Unbroken’

VFX studio handles 50 shots including crowd sims and Berlin Olympic Stadium virtual replica.

Piedmont, QC -- Hybride, a division of Ubisoft, in another collaboration with Industrial Light & Magic, has completed VFX work for Angelina Jolie’s epic drama, Unbroken.

Unbroken follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII - only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Hybride produced a total of 50 VFX shots including large-scale crowd simulations and a virtual replica of the Berlin stadium for the 1936 Olympic Games. "It was a great experience working with the entire team at Hybride. They were quick to pick up on the unique sensibility of the period ‘look’ of Unbroken and also did their own research on the 1936 Berlin Olympics to make sure the work they were creating was historically accurate,” said Bill George, visual effects supervisor on Unbroken. Hybride’s graphic designers are also credited with generating and animating several other CG elements such as flags, a torch, fire, smoke and birds.

Filmed in part by the production team, the public attending the 1936 Olympics was mostly recreated by Hybride artists. “The creation of CG crowds is a complex technique that we’ve developed over several projects. Since no existing software allowed the flexibility we needed, we created a tool that would allow us to combine all kinds of variations, therefore avoiding a ‘cloning’ effect,” explains Hybride visual effects supervisor Philippe Théroux.

Considering the stadium’s size and numerous camera movements, the technique for creating the computer-generated crowd varied according to each point of view. “Over the years Hybride has developed a variety of proprietary tools to take on the different challenges that come with creating crowd animations. Choosing the right technique for each and every shot to keep the production costs down, and allows quicker turnaround time,” says Théroux.

The size of the environment and camera movements made it impossible to use a greenscreen so most of the live action foreground plates had to be rotoscoped and integrated over the computer generated backgrounds. This technique allowed for greater speed and freedom in shooting the foreground action. A major design influence for the effects seen in Unbroken was the visual style established in the film by cinematographer Roger Deakins. The goal was to always have the effects shots fit seamlessly into the beautifully composted and lit shots that made up the live action portion of the film. Tracking and layout work required the highest accuracy to be able to perfectly blend the CG elements, and final rendering of the shots needed to be done in accordance with the rest of film’s look and feel. “I was very impressed with their flexibility and responsiveness to changes as we moved through the creative process with the Director,” said George. “Their strong production ability and focus on creative details makes it easy to trust that their work will be of the highest quality.”

Source: Hybride - Communications

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.