Nocturnal Robot completes VFX for <I>Tuscaloosa</I>
April 13, 2020

Nocturnal Robot completes VFX for Tuscaloosa

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Jeremy Wanek and his newly formed post production company Nocturnal Robot ( recently completed visual effects work for the film Tuscaloosa. The studio turned modern day Minnesota into 1970s-era Alabama for the feature. According to Wanek, he was brought in by associate producer Kyle Walczak, who was doing some additional editing on the movie at Splice in Minneapolis. Splice was handling the post production of the film and was in need of some VFX support.  

“At that time, there were only two of us,” recalls Wanek. “Myself, as the post production supervisor/VFX artist, and Conrad Flemming, who put a lot of his attention on the last two shots that are shown in the reel.”

The pair worked on aproximately 20 shots, ranging from fairly simple, with only a handful of elements needing to be effected, to complex, involving hundreds of elements. 

“We did our compositing in After Effects, sometimes using Red Giant's tools, digital cleanup utilizing Photoshop, planar tracking using Mocha Pro, 3D work in C4D, as well as Video Copilot's amazing plug-in for AE, Element 3D.”

Wanek says he had lengthy discussions with director Philip Harder about these particular shots and how to transform a modern day Minnesota into ’70s Alabama. For one shot, Harder referenced images that were photographed in the ’70s that he wanted to composite into the live action plate. 

“It was really interesting trying to blend something that was nearly 50 years old into a high quality Alexa shot,” says Wanek. “It took a lot of cleanup work on the old images, since they were littered with artifacts, as well as cutting them up to fit into the shot more seamlessly, but once it was all put together it created a cool effect to see these elements that were photographed decades apart come together.”

VFX Reel | TUSCALOOSA feature film from Jeremy Wanek on Vimeo.

A second shot featuring the Bama theatre, was one of the more difficult. 

“I had Conrad focus most of his attention on this shot because I knew he could pull it off in the limited time we had, and his attention to the period's details would go a long way,” says Wanek. “There wasn't a lot of reference imagery for us to analyze from the ’70s that were taken on that particular street, so we did our best looking at other images we could find from the time and area. Phil had a lot of notes and details to help us along. We had live-action plates shot on the Red camera to build upon, some buildings, period cars, the extras walking around, and a handful of other small objects, but because so much had to be reconstructed, the shot had to be put together from scratch. Some of the things we noticed in images from the ’70s that we implemented were removing lots of the foliage/trees, adding the fancy signs above stores, and adding the stop lights that hung on wires, among other details.”

Because of the quick turnaround and volume of shots, Wanek also connected director Philip Harder with Rude Cock Productions, which is led by Jon Julsrud. “They came in at the very end and helped finish what was left on the slate of shots,” Wanek explains.