LONDON — Dneg (www.dneg.com) served as the main visual effects studio on Fast X, the tenth installment in the
Fast and Furious franchise. The film stars Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa and Michelle Rodriguez, and is filled with extreme car chases and major explosions.
As the main VFX partner on the film, Dneg’s focus was on two major sequences: the Rome bomb sequence, which occurs early on, and the Portugal car chase in the third act. Dneg VFX supervisors Aleks Pejic, Francois Lambert and Michael Grobe worked with the studio’s global team to create over 1,000 visual effects shots for the film.
“Fast movies are always fun to be a part of,” says Grobe, who returned to work on his third Fast and Furious film. “The over-the-top nature of the action, and the seamless integration of the VFX work with world-class stunts and car action, performed in-camera, make it very rewarding and enjoyable. The Fast movies have a very large and loyal fan base globally, so it was both a challenge and, at the same time, a rewarding experience to help shape the visuals for this movie.”
For the bomb sequence in Rome, where a car chase leads to an explosion, the team used a combination of environment, background replacement and crowd work to set the scene. They then created the water explosion and shockwave effect that blows it up.
The Rome sequences were shot in different locations - some in Rome and some in Turin. The team combined the two shoot locations to create the Rome environments, using aerial plate photography to reconstruct the geometry and creating some of the buildings in full CG.
To create the explosion, the team began by referencing both nuclear and underwater explosions, and then tried to determine how a hybrid of these might look and behave. For the shockwave that follows, real life references of tornadoes and hurricanes that reach up to 150mph were used to determine what would happen to trees, buildings and water.
“Both the explosion and shockwave were created in Houdini, with lots of different passes to determine the different types of debris, building destruction, the water simulation, spray and waves, and the dust from the ground,” explains Pejic. “The sequence was a combination of a lot of different passes that then went to comp to generate the really complex look.”
The third act of the movie takes place in Portugal and features a thrilling car chase made up of several intricate beats. The Dneg team created multiple environments and CG assets, including planes, helicopters, a Dodge Charger RT, Ford Fairlane, and the iconic El Camino cannon car. The studio also created digidoubles, as well as fire effects and explosions to reinforce the high-octane action.
“We faced several challenges during the car chase sequence, as it encompassed a variety of locations,” Lambert recalls. “It starts in a harbor, transitions to a quarry and culminates on a highway in northern Portugal. We had a fleet of stunt cars and two real helicopters on-set. However, for close proximity scenes and crash sequences, we relied on CG vehicles. The sets being that wide was a challenge - every location was scanned with LiDAR, but the amount of data needed to recreate a highway was considerably high.”
During the highway chase sequence, two helicopters ascend on each side of a bridge, aiming to shoot harpoons at Dom's Charger and throw him off the bridge. However, Dom retaliates by activating his NoS, causing the helicopters to collide in mid-air and crash.
The Dneg team was fortunate to have two real helicopters on-set that were able to perform a good amount of the stunts within a safe distance of each other. For the near misses, one helicopter was removed, and then both were grounded for the climatic crash. Dneg’s VFX animation team used the real helicopters as a reference point to ensure realistic physics, weight and flight paths when creating the final blend of real and CG helicopters.
“Following the crash, Dom proceeds to drag the helicopters along the highway, using them as powerful weapons to take out mercenary cars in classic Fast and Furious style,” explains Lambert. “To achieve this sequence, an empty stunt car was projected from the top deck to the lower deck of a Portugal highway. While the car crashed on impact, this stunt provided us with a realistic trajectory that a car of that weight would follow and served as the anchor for the massive jump. At this point of the sequence, all the helicopters are CG and animating them required multiple iterations in order to get it right. We had the assistance of Fred North, the pilot of the real stunt helicopter on-set, who provided valuable insights on how helicopters would react when lifting heavy objects or when subjected to tugging and pulling forces. I believe the final result is a beat that strikes a balance between realism and spectacular visuals.”
Fast X was released in theatres back in May.