DEFINITION April 2022 - Newsletter


Virtual wonderlands

We speak to the creatives who sparked the digital gunpowder in some of Hollywood’s most explosive blockbusters – from visualisation to VFX refinement

WORDS. Lee Renwick IMAGES. Various

I t’s odd to imagine that some of the most moving moments in film history never even happened at all. We’re not discussing the movie magic and subsequent suspension of disbelief that goes into every live-action production here. We’re talking about Mark Hamill wielding a lacklustre metal baton on- set; Sam Neill turning Laura Dern’s head towards an empty field; and the entire indescribable landscape of James Cameron’s Pandora beginning as a green backdrop. But, by the time these sequences hit the screen, don’t they just win us over?

AERIAL ACROBATICS Uncharted opens with a bang. Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake boards a plane, then disembarks in rather dramatic fashion. The heart-racing sequence sees him hang from a string of cargo crates, battle a guard in mid-air, then clamber his way back to safety – almost. “It was an interesting challenge from everyone’s perspective,” says DNEG production VFX supervisor Chas Jarrett. “Working alongside the special effects team and second-unit director, Scott Rogers, we needed to figure out the best mechanism for shooting it, that would allow the visual effects component to be added seamlessly. I’m a firm believer that you can only make the shot as good as the raw material allows. “The interesting solution we settled on was the use of enormous Kuka robotic arms. They’re built for production lines, so can manoeuvre large weights very accurately. We ended up building tiers of three arms, each higher than the last, up to 20ft, then attached lightweight versions of the crates from the daisy chain.” With the boxes moving under reliable motion, Holland was tasked with performing his on-screen counterpart’s

Today, visual effects have become so advanced, they may not even be noticed at all. The experience of stepping into a cinema and watching some astonishing action unfold in an unreal virtual world is entirely commonplace. But that doesn’t mean it is any less extraordinary to behold. As far as recent blockbuster visual romps go, there haven’t been much bigger than Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Uncharted . So, what better case studies to explore the complex work of the creatives behind them?

OUTSIDE THE BOX The choice to position the sequence’s blue screen set outdoors paid dividends in the finished piece, with natural mixed lighting and the performers’ responses to weather adding realism


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