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Union Shares VFX Breakdown Reel for WWII Thriller ‘Operation Mincemeat’

Studio was the sole visual effects vendor on the Warner Bros. feature - about Great Britain’s successful deception operation prior to the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily - providing key CG ships and vehicles, wartime London environments, and troops storming into battle.

VFX house Union has shared with AWN and VFXWorld a breakdown reel of their work as the sole visual effects vendor on Warner Bros’ Operation Mincemeat, the story of Great Britain’s successful deception operation in WWII.

The film, starring Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn, and Jason Isaacs, is set in 1943 and the Allies are determined to break Hitler’s grip on occupied Europe.  With a plan to launch an all-out assault on Sicily they face an impossible challenge - how to protect the invasion force from potential annihilation.  It falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) to dream the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of the war - centered on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man. 

Operation Mincemeat tells the extraordinary, true story of the idea that the Allies hoped would turn the war’s tide in their favor – high risk, defying logic, nerves of its creators tested to breaking point.

Oscar-nominated John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directs from a script adapted from the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. The film is produced by See-Saw Films (The Power Of The Dog) and Cohen Media Group (Howard’s End), in association with Archery Pictures (Miss Sloane).

Union worked on the film from script to delivery to recreate key moments and place the action into the period.  The VFX work included a fully CG submarine and numerous matte paintings to create environments of a wartime London, stretching from Horse Guards Parade to Whitehall.

Take a look at the reel, then read more about the VFX production:

The Union team, led by Creative Director and VFX Supervisor Simon Hughes, worked closely with Madden, who commented, “I valued the collaboration on this immensely, and the skill, patience, and imagination Union brought far exceeded my best expectations. The shot of the submarine surfacing which begins the film is very cool and truly thrilling, establishing a narrative confidence that challenges the film to match it. The best thing is that you don't even think about how we got the shots - they just did their job so well. Judgment throughout was spot on, and I was really grateful for your endless willingness to adapt while we figured out exactly what we wanted.”

The HMS Seraph submarine scene was shot at Twickenham studios on a partial set built against greenscreen; the submarine was added in post, along with complex water simulations in the rain. The same submarine was also used in a series of full CG shots, from the opening scene with the vessel in stormy waters, to the re-emergence at Huelva beach at night.

For the USS Shubrick approaching Gela, the real HMS Cavalier was filmed at Chatham Dockyard and then partially replaced with the CG Shubrick and added into a CG stormy ocean as it powered towards Sicily, requiring wake and ocean creation as well as a flotilla of ships. An additional number of shots were created showing the troops final arrival and the storming of the beaches with CG landing craft and destroyers in the oceans. 

Once the battle was complete, a final shot was created showing the aftermath the following morning, a 600 frame plus shot which revealed the full scale of the battle that had commenced at night the previous evening. The shot was achieved using a combination of CG crafts, vehicles and props and a number of plates of soldiers marching on the beaches, all with a view to historical references gathered to create an authentic feel. 

Operation Mincemeat is now playing in cinemas.

Dan Sarto's picture

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