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Union VFX Goes ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’

Innovative visual effects add drama and authenticity to Thomas Vinterberg’s romance.

Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Vinterberg’s hotly anticipated romance based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, launches today in the U.K., revealing the dramatic visual effects provided by London-based post facility Union.

The film, which explores the consequences of a headstrong Victorian beauty’s tangled love life, was produced by DNA Films and is distributed internationally by Fox Searchlight Pictures, with which Union collaborated on Danny Boyle’s feature films 127 Hours and Trance. Far From the Madding Crowd is Union’s first project with DNA Films and film producers Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich.

Vinterberg’s film tells the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching wilfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love -- as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

Highlights of Union’s work on Far From the Madding Crowd, for which it was the sole visual-effects vendor, include a burning-barn sequence using CG and real fire elements with embers and smoke created in Houdini, and a dramatic scene in which a flock of sheep is herded over a cliff by a sheep dog. For the latter effect, Union took shots of a handful of live-action sheep jumping down a small drop, and replicated and multiplied these to create the illusion of an entire flock tumbling over a cliff. Further replication and multiplication work was applied to the harvest scene and snow scenes.

Union has been involved in several period films recently, including Glorious ’39 and ‘71, but Far From the Madding Crowd was the first in which the story is set in the countryside.

“It was inspiring to work in Dorset, such a beautiful part of the world and re-imagine it as it was at the turn of the 20th century,” said Union co-founder Tim Caplan, serving as lead VFX producer on the film. “It was also a privilege to work with one of the film industry’s most exciting directors in Thomas Vinterberg. And the project itself was an exciting challenge. The big fire sequence, for example, came with a host of logistical, and health and safety restrictions. We had to work out how to keep that sense of real jeopardy and authenticity in the picture -- but without of course endangering any of the cast or crew. Far From the Madding Crowd has been a fascinating experience and we are hugely proud to have been a part of it.”

Founded in 2008 by Adam Gascoyne and Tim Caplan, Union VFX was part of Danny Boyle’s core creative team for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Film credits include The Theory of Everything, Trance, Black Sea, 127 Hours, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The Woman in Black. Recent television projects include the second season of Da Vinci’s Demons, Babylon and Dancing on the Edge. Film projects currently in production are Suffragette, Lady in the Van, Genius, Bastille Day, Everest and the as-yet untitled Lance Armstrong Biopic.

Source: Union VFX

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.