Leading visual effects studio delivered nearly 400 shots, adding CG elements to everything from icy lakes to forests and high-speed car chases, in MGM’s latest action-packed James Bond spy thriller.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Maniac, True Detective), MGM’s latest hit James Bond spy thriller, No Time to Die, continued the franchise’s storied tradition of marrying jaw-dropping set pieces, dazzling cinematography, and practical filmmaking. “I really enjoyed working with Cary,” says Framestore VFX supervisor Jonathan Fawkner. “With his background as a director of photography, he has a very strong aesthetic sense.”
From car chases to icy lakes and dramatic, snow-covered environments, the Framestore team traveled the world – digitally - when adding CG elements into shots, working from detailed references and scans provided by the filmmakers. Yet, in the final film, the team’s work is virtually undetectable. “It’s hugely satisfying,” Fawkner notes, “to be able to put something into a shot that is so invisible that you know when you’ve done a good job because no one can see it.”
Around 170 people worked on the film’s VFX at Framestore, as well as at the recently acquired Company 3, which provided color. A separate team of 40 Framestore artists worked solely on the opening titles - actor Daniel Craig's last gun barrel sequence - and the Billie Eilish music video for the title track. Starting with GoldenEye in 1995, No Time To Die marks the seventh time the studio has worked closely with Daniel Kleinman to create a Bond title sequence, a partnership with the director that’s brought in multiple industry awards.
The film’s opening sequence – the latest in a long line of breathtaking Bond film intros - required bespoke environmental R&D work. Working from plates shot on location against a dramatic Spring sunset in Norway, the team had to replicate the look and feel of the shoot while changing the season to snow-covered winter. VFX supervisor Benjamin Loch shares, “The decision to base the look of the sequence on one of the sunset plates really paid off; the results provided the artists with a balanced image-based reference of all elements with the lighting composition of every shot baked in.”
For one very stylish sequence set in London, the studio created a vista of the skyline, as well as a new glass building in the heart of the city. “They wanted a very specific beautiful view of the city and they wanted it to be sunset.” adds Fawkner. To get the desired position of the sun, the crew shot the scene at sunrise, although additional details created a believable sunset, including animating traffic and adding trains, car headlights, and the surrounding architectural lights.
With the major stunts being shot practically, ensuring continuity was a huge part of Framestore’s supporting role, with one of the adrenaline-filled car chases requiring the choreographing of a Land Rover, three Toyota Land Cruisers, motorbikes, and a helicopter. According to Fawkner, “Other than dressing in higher mountains, the majority of the work was adding continuity, moving CG vehicles and stunt ramps from the shots, and then replacing terrain.”
Working on No Time To Die was a dream project for Framestore, says Loch, as “the franchise was always a firm favorite growing up, and my pick of choice was always one from the Bond ‘VHS’ collection.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.