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VFX Legion Creates Blazing Effects For ‘Don’t Breathe 2’

Studio delivers 100+ visual effects shots, including a series of key raging fires, for Rodo Sayagues’ action-packed sequel to the 2016 thriller, ‘Don’t Breathe.’

VFX studio VFX Legion has shared some of their work on director Rodo Sayagues’ new action thriller, Don’t Breathe 2, released in theaters on August 13th. Sayagues also co-wrote the film with Fede Alvarez, who directed the first film in the franchise, Don’t Breathe (2016). The Vancouver and Los Angeles-based VFX studio delivered 100+ visual effects shots, augmenting practical footage to help elevate the atmospheric thriller’s more visceral moments.

In the original film, three men break into the home of a blind man, Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) expecting an easy score. Instead, they’re slaughtered by a combat-trained veteran with acutely heightened senses. The sequel picks up the story six years later, with Lang, reprising his role. Now living in isolation with an orphaned girl he took in, Nordstom’s quiet existence is shattered when the child is kidnapped. Using his formable skills, he sets out to rescue the girl - and take revenge on her captors.

Shot in Belgrade, Serbia, and Detroit in Fall 2020, the film’s production, like so many, was slowed by the pandemic. A looming release date put pressure on post-production; when it became clear the original VFX vendor would be unable to complete the work, shots were spread out among numerous visual effect companies.  Legion was asked to bid on 30+ effects and was initially awarded just a handful of the most complex shots.

Legion soon bid on and was awarded nearly all the effects for a big sequence that called for raging fires, time warps, fluid dynamics, split screens, and CG muzzle flashes, along with other shots required for the scene.

“The quality of the intricate, multi-layered shots that we produced exceeded the client’s expectations, dramatically elevating the look of the original digital effects while meeting a tight deadline,” says James David Hattin, Legion’s Founder and VFX Supervisor.  “Our initial work on the film gave us the opportunity to earn the client’s trust which led to Legion being brought on board as one of the primary visual effects vendors and ultimately, delivering over 100 shots for the film.”

The film’s opening shot, well over 1,500 frames long, incorporates a wide range of effects. Legion created a fully CG double of an actress, custom graffiti, computer-generated overgrown foliage, and integrated digital elements into the footage.

The film includes 40 digitally ignited fire sequences in total. The complexity and dynamics of these effects would have made building them from scratch a costly and time-consuming process. VFX Legion’s association with ActionVFX, a stock visual effect company with a vast archive, enabled its team to provide an efficient alternative.  Artists found stock fires that were the right fit for all but one of the 40 shots. Legion’s team digitally augmented the stock elements to work with the practical footage, seamlessly blending them into the film.

During one scene, Nordstrom sets a house on fire, with some digital help. Towards the end of the movie, he desperately tries to find a way out of that house as the intensity of the CG flames grows, virtually consuming the structure. Using Autodesk’s Maya, artists digitally crumble the floors as The Blind Man makes his way through the flames and embers to a window and dives out, escaping the inferno.

“The client was also thrilled with the ongoing immediate access they had to Legion’s team,” says Hattin. “The level of communications that we considered essential to our brand of visual effect services was a game-changer for the production. It made working with us a seamless, stress-free experience while maximizing efficiency and fast-tracking deliverables. Rodo was several continents and time zones away but was always available to give us feedback responsively to make the final shots better than ever.”

Source: VFX Legion

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