August 6, 2010


Creative director/VFX supervisor John Bair led the Phosphene team, which created the CG concrete towers and gates. “We expanded on the art department’s initial design and created concrete structures that reflect the imagery we have seen of North Korean gates and black metal signage, as well as the more complex South Korean side of the DMZ, with its gate and guard towers topped with mirrored glass,” Bair explains. “We researched border crossings worldwide to get a sense of the technology currently employed at these checkpoints before creating our 3D computer generated models of these structures.”

Only partial sets were built for the sequence, so all the extensions that indicated that the action takes place in North Korea were built by Phosphene. In addition, there was considerable hand-held motion in the scene, so tracking was challenging.
“We had about 10 vendors and 800 shots to manage,” explains the film’s VFX supervisor Robert Grasmere. “Creative shot design and concepts came first — then beautiful temps. A few notes went back and forth and then finals were delivered that were so seamless no one has ever detected that substantial architectural structures were added to every shot. No bluescreens were used and the star of the movie, Angelina Jolie, was in the foreground with her hair blowing in the wind. These were very difficult shots with hand roto and tracking on every frame. The compositing, color control, grain matching, and all the other technical challenges were well handled in the background. This freed us up to focus on the artistic part.”
Phosphene used Nuke, 3DS Max and After Effects CS4 on the project. The studio relied on PCs with Intel Xeon Processors running Windows XP 64-bit and Windows 7 64-bit.
Sony ColorWorks was responsible for the digital intermediate and Deluxe, New York handled the lab processing.