March 23, 2018
With a little creativity, not only can VFX effects be affordable, but it can even save you money.
Shawn Walsh of Zero Engine was thrown a major curve on Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty when production hit a stumbling block in the third act. “Navy Seals go in with helicopters, but they are these top secret stealth helicopters,” he explained in the SXSW session on leveraging VFX for indie films. There was no way of knowing exactly what the cutting edge government choppers looked like, nor any way to get these secret choppers on set.
“We had to come up with the design of fictional yet real helicopters,” Walsh explained, “Are we going to build a custom copter? No, we don’t know avionics. Will we have to CG these stealth hawks from scratch? It would have exploded the budget. We’re going to have to CG helicopters to make the story work. The third act falls apart without it! So what we did, is we filmed real helicopters, Black Hawks, and we motion-tracked them and CG-replaced them with the fictional copter. The dust was real, the flying was real; the VFX team got something to work with, and they made it work.”