Leading design company Pixomondo shared a new VFX breakdown role with AWN, showing their work on Universal's action thriller The Hunt. Directed by Craig Zobel and produced by Jason Blum and Damon Lindelof, The Hunt plays an ensemble including Hilary Swank, Betty Gilpin and Emma Roberts.
The film takes place in the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, in which a group of elites gather for the first time in a remote mansion to hunt ordinary Americans for sport. But the elite master plan is derailed because one of the hunted knows the hunters' game better than they do. She turns the tables and lifts them one by one as she makes her way to the mysterious woman at the center.
The Pixomondo team was led by VFX supervisor Johnny Gibson from PXO Los Angeles, who spent a lot of time on the set during the filming, and Edward Hawkins from PXO Vancouver, who was on set during the hurricane in Louisiana for re-shoots.
Gibson talks about the scope of her VFX work and says: “Our bread and butter [in the film] consisted of blood and blood, wounds and muzzle flashes, for which we shot a lot of elements on the VFX element shoot day. We used a cornucopia of classic techniques. We had a lot of paintwork for safety equipment cables and set extensions. All of the flying arrows were digital, just like actor Christopher Berry stormed through the forest, fired his hand cannon, and was shot. We have prepared for some facial replacement procedures and complex in-shot camera connections. We also had some handy FX composites for big heroes. For one, Spectrum FX loaded all the explosives they had left over at the end of the shoot into a large pile of stage blood and latex casings and set it against the green screen. This was used in the mine’s exploded footage, which tears actress Sylvia Crim in half just before landing on the spikes in the pit. We also shot Pyro on the pit site. It was a great pyro! "
"We also built a digital private jet," he adds. “The jet interior was filmed on a blue screen stage. How did we add an airstrip and private jet to the back yard of a small mansion? We set up a huge blue screen to cover the foreground foliage from the point of view of the camera, and treated the rest as a classic digital set expansion with a private CG jet. "
Work was also required to clean a supposedly untouched grass field that had been tarnished by heavy downpours. "The field north of New Orleans where we were shooting was showered with rain every other day because it's a hurricane season," Gibson continues. "It was impossible to hide all the muddy traces, so Ed had to do it digitally."
"The majority of the footage was cable rig and was cleaned up, especially in the fight scene at the end of the film," Hawkins said. "We also added blood / muzzle flashes and the usual weird selection of one-off shots that show up during the shot. The only major focus was the addition of a private jet and a runway that covered the full range of CG aircraft construction , Blue screen, 3D track and set extensions included. "
According to Hawkins, exploring gunshots and knife wounds on a shoot like The Hunt takes you to one of two places: too uncomfortable to consider rebuilding, or too banal and unspectacular to tell the story of that moment on the screen. “In general, everything comes down to this: what can the audience expect in a film like this? When we look at the best cinema moments in the past, in films where someone is shot in the head, we expect an explosion of blood that is ideally tossed against a wall for extra impact. It is part of our common language of cinema. The Hunt was all about surprising the audience. Just when they think they know who the film's main character is, they are shot or blown up or skewered, or a combination of the three. We would create something spectacular and shocking and then be asked to push it a little further: bigger and bloodier, but without it getting weird. "
"We wanted to push it and force it to be a little more on your face, so it was a clue that was more visceral than you would naturally shoot," Gibson reveals. "Personally, I'm a little squeamish, so I tried to stay out of the bloody daily papers. I think Ed and his team did a great job because I practically passed out when I saw actor Jason Kirkpatrick's final being stabbed in the neck! "
When it comes to dealing with shots, Gibson goes on to explain that timing and muzzle flash are important. "Adding quarter turn blanks always helps casters recoil and sometimes flashes a good muzzle flash, but the flash is extremely short and half the time between exposures," he says. “They are difficult to see even in daylight. To get it, we shoot the same weapon in a dark environment and capture the flash from different angles. Then we can go back and add them where we need more effect. And more subtle, sometimes we drop a frame or two around the recoil to make the weapon look stronger. "
Gibson also notes that the team did some 2D manipulation for some of the more elaborate fight scenes. "The big fights were also our bread and butter," he says. “There were some interesting problems to be solved. How did we bounce a stunt performer off a burning fireplace? We shot the stunt performer against green crash pads and then shot a wide, clean plate of the burning fireplace. then Ed's team followed and massaged her to work together. How did we add an airstrip and private jet to the back yard of a small mansion? We set up a huge blue screen to cover the foreground foliage from the point of view of the camera, and treated the rest as a classic digital set expansion with a private CG jet. How have we not killed people in knife fights and stab wounds? We removed the blade, rotated the action, took a reference to the real blade in the same lighting, and added it later in either 2D or CGI. "
For Hawkins, the film's biggest challenge was getting the CG plane to its final setting. “It affected every part of the VFX pipeline. 3D tracking, matte painting, 3D modeling and lighting, and some very patient and complex compositions to bring it all together. "
It was the weather for Gibson. "We were exposed to the rain from Louisiana," he explains. “The first AD, Lars Winther, gave the crew incredible shooting opportunities for wet days, but more than half the time we had to collect tracking / matchmove and reference data under poorly lit plastic sheeting and in humid environments. It was the opposite of the ideal circumstances we are used to. It was a constant struggle to get between the main shooting range and the SFX shooting range on the FX days. About half the time there was an inch of water on surfaces where you had no choice but to step inside. They couldn't predict the flood. One day I packed my rain boots in the car, got out to put them on in the crew's parking lot, and found that my feet were already completely submerged in rainwater. What a day! Mud was also a problem. It came in all the equipment. In addition to the daily archiving and documentation processes, we had to clean all of the equipment every two nights. But I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. "
Dan Sarto is the editor and editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.