VFX Legion recently provided the visual effects for Angel Manuel Soto's award-winning coming-of-age drama, Charm City Kings. Led by VFX Supervisor James David Hattin and VFX Producer Nate Smalley, the pioneering remote company's global team of artists created over 100 photorealistic visual effects for the film. Charm City Kings, the winner of the United States Special Jury Award for Ensemble Acting at this year's Sundance Film Festival, premiered on HBO Max on October 8th.
Inspired by the dirt bike culture revealed in the documentary 12 O & # 39; Clock Boys, the film tells the story of Mouse (Jahi Di & # 39; Allo Winston), a boy who is sure to join a notorious clique of Want to join bikers who rule the downtown streets of West Baltimore. The focus is on the 14-year-old's emotional struggle between a straight and narrow path and the thrill and easy money of a violent biker world.
VFX Legion, the only visual effects provider for Charm City Kings, supplied a wide range of photo-realistic computer-generated effects for the film.
One of the most challenging visual effects was a shot that started with the camera upside down and opened the scene with an upside-down view of a biker riding on a closed track. When the motorcycle passes the camera, we follow the change of perspective as it rotates into an upright position. VFX Legion's job was to track the sweeping camera movement and create this long shot of the lonely dirt biker with dozens of computer-generated photo-realistic cars. Choreographed animations naturally maneuver vehicles through traffic as they change lanes, accelerate and hit the brakes.
The LA and BC-based company's CG library provided a cost-effective option so the cars no longer had to be digitally built from scratch. Computer-generated cars were chosen to match the appearance of the models driving in the opposite direction on the practical footage.
The complex shot took advantage of VFX Legion's global collaboration with talent who work from home. Ruy Delgado of Puerto Rico, the studio's artist for challenging tracking shots, worked closely with the company's 3D supervisor, Rommel S. Calderon in LA, 3D artist Chris Strauss in Lake Tahoe, and Johannesburg-based composer Eugen Olsen. South Africa. The team worked as a unit, making sure that all iterations fit together and that the mats, along with various elements created by the 3D department, seamlessly blend together.
VFX Legion also delivered several long sequences where two separate shots had to be stitched together to create the look of one uninterrupted shot. The team stabilized the camera movement and then found places where the footage could be edited to create the illusion of individual series shots.
The film's lifelike feel depended on the attention given to small moments and details. One scene in which Mouse was talking to Blax (Meek Mill), a motorcycle mechanic, and another to a group of bikers, was filmed with Blax in a clean white t-shirt. The flawless guys, clearly atypical of an ex-con who leads a tough life, called on VFX Legion to provide a digital solution. Adding dirt and sweat stains to the garment was a complicated process. The way the fabric moves and stretches made it extremely difficult to find smudges and smudges. The artists used some newer tools in Nuke to track the vectors and then used the data they gathered to apply the stained and discolored areas to the shirt.
The company's team also removed reflections, camera shadows, and stunt rigging from action-packed bike scenes, built CG police cars and other elements, added pictures to cell phone screens, and composed footage. Most of the 100+ recordings made for Charm City Kings are invisible, so the drama can be played in a real-life setting that defies the eyes of the audience.
The artists used a mix of tools to create the palette of VFX, including Andersson Technologies' Syntheyes for 3D tracking, Autodesk Maya for 3D modeling and animation, and Foundry's Nuke for compositing.
"All of our meetings were joint events that reassured the filmmakers that we heard their voices and understood their needs," noted Smalley. "With an efficient workflow, we were able to quickly deliver and execute digital solutions and provide innovative options that matched Angel's vision of what he wanted to see on screen."
"Our team is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this remarkable film and to bring the director's vision to life," added Hattin. “The experienced leadership of the VFX Legion brought their 40 years of experience in the field of visual effects to the project. Our work also benefited from the cost efficiency and technical ingenuity associated with nearly decades of working with a globally curated collective of experienced artists – a WFH approach that the pandemic has made indispensable and that the industry has only just introduced. ”
Source: VFX Legion