“David had the picture of the movie in his head”

Kevin Tod Haug, the VFX supervisor of ‘Panic Room’–the film is now two decades old–shares key moments from its production.

Ian Failes
March 30, 2022
befores & afters

David Fincher’s Panic Room turns 20 years old this week. The film starring Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart featured a somewhat memorable troubled production history, partly because the original principal actor Nicole Kidman had to pull out of the project after shooting had began, among other events.

From a visual effects perspective, however, the film is memorable for different reasons. One is the incredible approach taken to extremely long takes inside the main location–a New York brownstone townhouse built on a stage in Redondo Beach–featuring ‘deliberately’ impossible camera moves. These were the result of meticulous previs, motion control and other camera work and a photogrammetry approach to VFX orchestrated by BUF, which had done some similar work on Fincher’s Fight Club.

Another memorable aspect of the film is its unsettling opening titles in which cast and crew names appear as giant lettering framed within New York buildings and locations. The work here was done by Picture Mill and ComputerCafe.

Overseeing those two key visual effects components of Panic Room was visual effects supervisor Kevin Tod Haug, who had also worked with Fincher on Fight Club. He revisits the production in this anniversary chat with befores & afters, looking back at the planning, previs and shoot, and the approach to those impossible camera moves and the unique titles.

Read the full interview

VFX Notes: The Art of Matte Painting and Invisible VFX with Craig Barron

Hugo Guerra (Twitter) & Ian Failes (Twitter)
November 24, 2021
Hugo’s Desk (YouTube, Patreon, Twitter, Facebook) / befores & afters

On this episode of VFX Notes, Hugo Guerra from Hugo’s Desk and Ian Failes from befores & afters are joined by Craig Barron. Barron is creative director at Magnopus, and previously worked as a matte painter at ILM and co-founder and visual effects supervisor at Matte World Digital. Barron won a VFX Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and was also nominated for a VFX Oscar for Batman Returns.

They talk about his amazing career and his work in Zodiac, Casino, Empire Strikes Back, Batman Returns, and so much more, what those original days of matte painting in the optical era were like, and how the transition to digital happened. Matte World Digital’s work on Zodiac, amongst other films, was also discussed in a previous episode.

This episode is sponsored by ActionVFX Black Friday sale. It begins November 25th at 8 PM EST and will end on December 3rd at 11:59 PM EST. All VFX elements in the library will be 55% off the first 24 hours, & 50% off the remaining days of the sale. All Annual Subscription Plans (Individual & Studio Plans) purchased during the sale will receive 2x the amount of monthly elements. Learn more here.

Chapters:
00:00:00 – Intro
00:04:30David Fincher and DVD extras
00:05:35 – Craig’s career
00:08:16Ray Harryhausen and influences
00:12:08 – Matte paintings in Empire Strikes Back
00:18:13 – Physical correct vs artistic direction
00:32:07 – Matte paintings in Batman Returns
00:34:12Casino and the first radiosity render
00:43:37 – 3D projections in Zodiac
00:55:02Blade Runner VR
00:59:48The Criterion Collection and history
01:07:05Patreon, Twitch Subs and YouTube members credits

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befores & afters
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VFX Notes: David Fincher and the rise of invisible VFX

Hugo Guerra (Twitter) & Ian Failes (Twitter)
October 2, 2021
Hugo’s Desk (YouTube, Patreon, Twitter, Facebook) / befores & afters

On this episode of VFX Notes, Hugo Guerra from Hugo’s Desk and Ian Failes from befores & afters dive deep into the visual effects in David Fincher films. We take an especially close look at Digital Domain‘s work for Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Chapters:
00:00:00 – Intro
00:04:20Zodiac and the rise of invisible VFX
00:09:09 – The rise of D2 and Foundry‘s Nuke
00:18:31 – David Fincher’s methods and Zodiac‘s murder scenes
00:30:03 – Environments by DD and Matte World
00:43:41 – The VFX of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
00:57:27 – The VFX of The Social Network
01:03:15 – The VFX of Mindhunter
01:09:51 – Wrap up
01:12:45Patreon, YouTube members and Twitch Subs Credits

Listen to the podcast:

befores & afters
Apple Podcasts

Spotify
Google Podcasts

‘Mank’ VFX: ‘Body-and-Fender’ Work and So Much More

Behind Mank‘s Invisible Visual Effects

Ian Failes
December 14, 2020
befores & afters

I recently had the chance to ask Territory Studio about their visual effects work for Mank, which involved the re-creation of Wilshire Blvd from the 1930s. Like those shots, so much of Mank’s VFX work was invisible, involving subtle augmentations to tell the period story.

Overseeing these visual effects shots was director David Fincher himself, alongside co-producer Peter Mavromates, and the film’s art department. Fincher and Mavromates co-ordinated an outside effort, also, led by four VFX supervisors at different studios: Artemple (Wei Zheng), Territory Studio (Simon Carr), Savage (John Pastorious) and ILM (Pablo Helman).

In this befores & afters conversation, Mavromates discusses the various VFX work—from sky replacements to matte paintings, to CG animals and what he calls ‘body-and-fender’ shots—that helped tell Mank’s tale.

Read the full interview

Territory Studio: The LED Rear Projection VFX for Mank

Territory Studio travels back to the golden era of 1930s Hollywood, delving into the development of ‘Citizen Kane’ in David Fincher’s ‘Mank‘.

December 9, 2020
Territory Studio

The brief was to recreate a section of 1930s Wilshire Boulevard to play on an LED rear projection behind Mank and his wife Sara. Authenticity was key, we wanted to ensure this recreation blended into the background seamlessly and convincingly. The final sequence feels very much as David described in our initial brief: “We’re making a 1930s style film with rear projection, but with the very latest digital technology we’ve been able to improve upon it and transport the audience back to Hollywood’s golden era.”

Simon Carr, VFX Supervisor at Territory Studio:

“It was a great privilege to work on such a visually stunning movie for an eminent director, and to be able to dive into recreating the period details of 1930’s Wilshire Boulevard. To see the sequence come together in-camera as a perfect blend of old style and new technique is the essence of how VFX should be used.”

Read the full case study

‘Mank’: Inside the World of a Synthetic LA and LED Screens

Ian Failes
December 10, 2020
befores & afters

Territory recreates Wilshire Boulevard for Mank

Jon Creamer
December 11, 2020
Televisual

A Drive Down Wilshire Blvd., ca. 1935

When Only the “Right” Kind of Microphone Will Do

This ‘Mindhunter’ promo needed something very, very specific. Territory studio delivered.

Ian Failes
December 3, 2019
befores & afters

If you’ve watched David Fincher’s Mindhunter series about the development of the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit from the late 1970’s through to 1980s, then you’ll already know there’s a certain kind of meticulousness to the Netflix show in each episode.

Well, that same kind of detail was added even to this promo for season 2 of series that got shown on social media. And it all revolved around…a microphone.

Tasked with creating a mic in between agents Ford and Tench in a police interrogation cell was Territory Studio, which also handled a few other clean-ups in the push-in shot.

Here’s the story, step-by-step, of how Territory – led by VFX Supervisor Simon Carr and VFX Producer Robin D’Arcy – researched the prop itself (even taking a used version apart), modeled it in CG and finished the shot.

Read the full article