I love hearing about the behind the scenes in movie making. This article is especially interesting as it explains how the fear landscapes, dystopian cityscapes, animals, characters and scenes were manipulated through CGI, green screens and more special effects techniques.
To support the storyline, extreme effects were required, and visual effects house Method Studios, a Deluxe Entertainment Services Group company, took the lead role.
The span of VFX work in the film by Method and the other studios included full-CG environments, city plate enhancements, set extensions, digital doubles, CG trains and buildings, monitors, crowds, and muzzle flashes.
According to Berney, a lot of the VFX entailed the construction of various locations around Chicago. “We wanted everything to look as though it was captured in camera, but many of the situations, like running along a train on the El, were impossible. So, we always started with some piece, no matter how small, of photography,” he explains.
Method in Chicago
Method sets the stage with enhanced helicopter plates to create a futuristic Chicago, generated with matte paintings and CG buildings. The scene sets the stage for the film and is followed by a number of other scenes showcasing the new cityscape. In fact, Method handled all the city enhancements, in addition to the mirror and train sequences, the wall, and Tris’s fear simulations that occur in the film. The work was done during a eight-month period, with a team of nearly 100 people.
The majority of effects Method completed for “Divergent” can be classified as invisible visual effects work. The effects range from environment work to full-CG character work. The most obvious would be dystopian look of Chicago, 100 years in the future, which is based on Production Designer Andy Nicholson’s concepts.
On the character side, digital doubles were created and used throughout the film to add scale to the cityscapes. Massive was used for digital crowd extensions to expand the scope of the Dauntless Army attacking the Abnegation neighborhood. “We shot motion capture and built libraries of animation cycles to assist the animators,” says Dessero.
As for animals, Method created CG ravens and a CG dog for the film. The bird attack sequence contains upward of 50 digital ravens attacking Tris in any given shot in this sequence. The environment work, meanwhile, ranged from simple matte painting extensions to full-CG environments.