I get to see a lot of scripts, breakdowns, and previs around the studio. Every now and then I'll come across a shot that grabs me from the first moment I see it. I'm a sucker for slow dramatic camera moves, heroic signature poses, or epic environments. This is one of those special shots.
From the 2009 BAFTA award winning BBC mini-series The Day of the Triffids, this shot is also a great example of blending live action practical set pieces with visual effects enhancements to create a level a realism which would have been difficult to achieve with visual effects alone. We were called upon to create the aftermath from a downed commercial airliner in the streets of London. The plane tears a path through the city leaving a trail of destruction in it's wake. We had to extend the two buildings on the right, one of which was destroyed in the crash, the crumbling and burning buildings, street and London skyline beyond.
Originally our plan was to build a full CG model of the airplane which was to be featured in several shots, but after seeing the footage we decided that a simple multi-plane approach would be more flexible and cost effective. I aligned several image planes based on the point cloud data I received from our matchmoving department. I used three different camera projections for the set extension on the right, two for the buildings and one for the tree. The airplane was made up of two more projections, one for the tail section and one for the fuselage. And finally, the background building, street and city extension comprised of a multi-layered matte painting. All of the camera projections were done using Fusion's 3D environment. Once the geometry was aligned with the footage and all of the camera projections were set up, I could quickly swap out revisions from matte painter, Juan Garcia, without having to re-render layers in 3D. This also allowed me to precomp many layers of fire and smoke elements onto still background images before re-projecting them onto the geometry.
I had great practical reference for the fire and interactive lighting from the footage. Using filmed fire and smoke effects elements, I layered in pockets of fire and bounce light around the destroyed buildings. I also added fire inside and around the downed aircraft and on the piles of debris lining the city streets, creating pools of light which revealed just enough detail to bring the environment to life. I even used Fusion's procedural noise tool to create additional smoke layers for the composite. Finally, layers of falling ash and paper helped to blend everything together.