Behind the scenes
Working closely with VFX Supervisor Thomas Wood and VFX Producer Fiona Crawford , the FIN team has created cg environments and digital crowds across 180 shots in 3 sequences for Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” with stunning recreations of Tupleo Town, Elvis’s Louisiana Hayride show and Los Angeles Airport.
Additionally, FIN worked closely with the editorial and post-production teams on a multitude of musically driven ‘digital optics’ sequences for the film.
“We were tasked with a large body of work that needed considerable creative and technical input,” explains FIN Head of Visual Effects, Alastair Stephen, “the work was varied in its scope and required all aspects of FIN’s artistry to produce.”
In the Louisiana Hayride sequence, FIN needed to authentically recreate the full auditorium and the audience. Production shot a large number of ‘sprites’ (a digital audience) to be used within this environment, and they had specific actions to build up the exhilaration of the crowd.
FIN Compositing Supervisor Aaron Barclay explains, “These ‘sprites’ needed to be categorised based on the actors, the action, the angle the camera was shooting them at, as well as the direction that their chair faced so that we could put them together into a large particle system and get a proper orientation to the camera.
“We utilised the Nuke 3D particle system to handle the placement and orientation of each of the cards within a 3d space aligning to the CG seat placements that were in the digital Hayride set. Each individual ‘sprite’ could be offset and adjusted to get the best performance for each shot. Having all this kept within Nuke allowed for a much higher degree of control in integrating the crowd into the plate, thereby giving the ability to get nicer falloff around lights and blend the crowds into the shadows seamlessly. The final pictures must have complete authenticity.”
LOS ANGELES AIRPORT
FIN’s biggest challenge was the jet sequence that occurs at Los Angeles Airport. FIN CG Supervisor Juri Mejan-Fripp explains, “We had a very sparse and empty space that we needed to fill with LAX. There was very little on set: a set of stairs, the cars, and the actors.
“We started with aerial maps of LAX to build the base structure of LAX airport. We had a few landmarks that we knew we wanted to make the hero, the LAX Theme building being the key landmark to mark this as LAX. Once we had a solid foundation of the layout that worked, we could push work on getting all the assets to final quality and create a distant environment through DMP.
“The vibe for the area around Elvis was to be the private jet hangars, so taking period references, we built CG versions of private jets and hangars and started to dress these into the area to give visual interest for this vast space, while not taking away from the emotional storytelling that is the most important aspect of this sequence.”
Juri said, “The Lisa Marie jet digital asset required extensive research, and the team went to considerable lengths to achieve realism. While there is a lot of great photographic reference to go off as the plane is sitting in Graceland, the plane has deteriorated quite a lot, so the team needed to come up with a brand new, looking version of the Lisa Marie jet that had all the polish and detail required to hold up to a large variety of shots.
Using blueprints of the Convair 880 as well as the photographic material of the Lisa Marie jet we went through and built all the details to be able to see the plane in all her glory.”
“We were truly humbled with the opportunity to collaborate so closely with Baz Lurhmann, Catherine Martin, and the entire team at Warner Bros. on this once-in-a-lifetime project. We are extremely proud of what the FIN team has produced. You don’t get opportunities like this very often, and the key to its success was the collaborative approach Tom and Fiona brought to the table, coupled with the exceptional Artists in our team at FIN.”