A 'Quantum' Of Editorially-Driven Visual Effects
Marc Forster’s comment that Quantum of Solace was a bit like a bullet applies not only to the film itself, but also the production work that went into making it.
As reported in the past on CommanderBond.net, time was always a factor when it came to all levels of production on the 22nd James Bond film and this included the visual effects creation.
In a new interview with VFXWorld, designer Kevin Tod Haug discusses working along with director Marc Forster, special effects designer Chris Corbould and many other members of the 007 crew in order to create the 900+ visual effects shots in the film.
‘I pretty much did what I’ve always done for Marc,’ Haug said. ‘There is a certain amount of polishing that Marc needs out of the visual effects department because he’s developed a recognition that a certain amount of what is too expensive to do on the day could be managed later: “I know I have the raw material here and ultimately I want to see how it cuts before I deal with some of these issues.” And unlike a lot of directors who go back and do reshoots, he just fixes them. So the stuff tends to be 98% there. There’s just that little bit of tweaking to make things look better.’
‘I told Marc that I thought he was intentionally crazy to do it because they only had 12 weeks of post, and we’d never done anything that quick…’ –Kevin Tod Haug
He continues: ‘Since Stay, we usually have our own in-house level of compositing so that we can do what I call “editorially-driven visual effects”: splitting performances and retiming things, taking a performance from one scene and putting it in another in order to shorten a scene or transplant a scene or a performance.’
‘But the thing about working on a Bond movie is that neither of us had ever done a giant action movie before. And so it’s the pure scope of doing action and the number of things that you have to pull off. We had a conversation early on where I told Marc that I thought he was intentionally crazy to do it because they only had 12 weeks of post, and we’d never done anything that quick–he’d never done a director’s cut that fast. But I think we all agreed that the opportunity to be the first [predominantly American crew] ever to do a Bond was too hard to turn down. I am the first vfx designer (or supervisor for that matter). The rule was don’t do anything that you’re not 100% certain won’t look good, don’t get experimental, don’t over reach, just do what needs to be done and do it as well as possible. It was a sort of rear-guard action from day one to make sure that we didn’t end up with 12 weeks to go and some horrible mess to sort out.’
Director Marc Forster
Forster, who tried to incorporate elements of earth, water, air and fire into the many different action sequences featured in Quantum of Solace, also relied heavily on precise organization from the very beginning in order to minimize the time issue as much as possible.
‘We only had six weeks to cut the movie and then another few weeks for the sound,’ he stated, ‘so from the get-go, I said we have to figure out how to shoot as much as we can ‘real’ or get ‘real’ elements because we have such a limited time to make the visual effects and to make them look real would be really tricky. So everything in the plan was to follow that brief, and we had to map out when we shoot what just to [keep it all straight]. There wasn’t a huge amount of CG effects, but a lot of it came either through small elements or [in combination with special effects].’
‘I said we have to figure out how to shoot as much as we can ‘real’ or get ‘real’ elements because we have such a limited time to make the visual effects.’ –Marc Forster
For being a first-time crew member on the Bond series, Haug said he was struck at how integral the coordination between the visual and special effects were. ‘Chris Corbould and I linked up the day I prodded him off of The Dark Knight long enough to sit down and have lunch. We immediately understood what each other was doing and why we were going to work that way.’
‘We got together with the First AD [Michael Lerman] and we frontloaded the stuff that was heavy visual effects rendering in the beginning part of the schedule and the stuff that was heavy special effects-oriented at the back end so he had time to build his rigs and then they were going to happen mostly in camera, and we had time to deal with our stuff after the plates had been generated. So we figured out how to schedule it in such a way so neither one of us got too hammered.’
‘There has to be proof of that so we brought the flame within inches of them just to make sure there was no doubt in anyone’s mind.’ –Kevin Tod Haug on Quantum‘s fiery finale
He singled out the aerial dogfight and the climactic encounter at Perla de las Dunas as the two most difficult sequences in the film. ‘That set of the ESO hotel with the explosions and the DC-3 rig that Chris had to build: both of those had to obviously happen far back in the schedule from his point of view. And that left us to do the skydiving and things we had to do in the beginning. As it is, I still wish I had a few more weeks on some of the CG planes. I think that the lines are heavily blurred as to what’s all-CG and what’s not. I don’t think there’s a single thing in the movie that’s entirely synthetic.’
There’s much more. Read on for the complete, indepth interview with Kevin Tod Haug.
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