VANCOUVER — Method Studios completed 223 CG VFX shots on Twentieth Century Fox’s new film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The plot explores the secret life of America’s famous president and the untold history of the bloody battle between Lincoln and a horde of evil vampires.
Method Studios’ Vancouver team created many complex visual effects sequences with computer graphics elements, including the trestle bridge fire scene, an Abraham Lincoln digital double, digital crowds, a CG Civil War-era train and fully digital environments, including the Washington Capitol.
The stereo conversion on the film was completed by sister company, Stereo D. Michael Owens was the production visual effects supervisor. Leading the Method crew were visual effects supervisor Randy Goux and visual effects producer Jinnie Pak.
“I was impressed with the Method team,” states Owens. “Randy and Jinnie were solution-driven, but never without great creative and design suggestions and ideas. The film’s director, Timur Bekmambetov, and the filmmakers were pleased with their work. Over several years and quite a few projects, I’ve enjoyed working with Method Vancouver. It’s handy to have the confidence that they’ll always find a way to meet challenges, deadlines and budgets with work that very much pleases the filmmakers’ expectations.”
Randy Goux comments, “Timur wanted to see various visual styles from us, which resulted in an intense look/development phase at the start of this project. Our main sequence involved the collapse of a burning bridge, which also featured Abe Lincoln and Will Johnson involved in hand-to-hand combat with a group of vampires. To make it more complicated, all this action is happening on top of a moving train at night.”
Goux continues: “The actors were shot on two static box car tops against greenscreen — the rest of the surrounding environment and effects were all CG, with half of the shots needing to be rendered in stereo while the other half were converted by Stereo D. The director’s filmmaking style included the use of extreme slow motion, so we had to develop a flexible system for creating complex volumetric smoke effects. Speed ramps in the action were in constant flux editorially, so at the very least, we had to create all of our effects at 250 fps in order to be able to keep up with editorial changes and the fine attention to detail needed for such slow-moving effects.”
The fact that this action occurs at night presented specific challenges to the 3D artists and compositors, and believable lighting was of key importance. The CG tree branches and leaves needed to cast moonlit shadows onto the actors and train, and Method also added shadows of the actors into the CG smoke. Not only does the smoke give the sequence a sense of speed, it also adds a great deal of suspense as the vampires appear in and out of the darkness.
Sean Lewkiw, Method’s DFX supervisor, adds, “This film was a big technical challenge in terms of the pyro and rigid-body destruction effects required, and we developed many new tools to cope with this task. One additional aspect of the film that was challenging was producing many of the shots in full stereo, which is particularly daunting for semi-transparent elements like fire and smoke. Doing traditional 2D tricks would destroy the stereoscopic effect, so we took our time and produced many layers with incredible detail, which were expertly composited under the watchful eye of our compositing supervisor Abel Milanes.”
Dan Glass, Method’s EVP and senior VFX supervisor, concludes, “Every show we work on presents new creative challenges, and we’re proud of our efforts and innovative problem solving on ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.’ Working with Stereo D for the conversion — sharing assets and project manageability — provided our clients with continuity and ease that’s important when everyone is under the time and budget constraints of completing a film.”