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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2: Visual effects supervisor Charles Gibson interview

By Trevor Hogg

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Date Added: 15th December 2015

All images © Lionsgate

The Capitol

Different locations in Europe had to appear as part of a unified whole when creating The Capitol. "Generally the success was due to Phil's taste – picking compatible locations and coming up with a unified design approach and provided a ‘look book' of architectural styles for our vendors,” states Charles Gibson who had to maintain a sense of realism and scale with the destruction. "A combination of some practical full-scale piece on location helped us, and then making sure there was enough detail in the extension portion of each shot.”


Lizard Sequence

Most of the sequence plays in or near water and with a substantial amount of contact between creatures and actors,” explains Gibson. "We decided to use stunt players in white tracking suits to create practical splashes and physical interaction with the performers. We generally shot additional clean plates, water splash plates and lighting references with each take. We also shot standalone water splash elements, fire and explosion elements to enhance a number of shots. Weta Digital subsequently created digital water, fire and smoke for shots in which none of those elements would suffice. Weta Digital had to develop sophisticated skin shaders and a realistic ‘wet' shader, all of which had to hold up in multiple lighting scenarios and at multiple scales.”


Philip Seymour Hoffman, Vehicles & Weapons

Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays Plutarch Heavensbee tragically died from a drug overdose before production had completed on the project. "Hoffman had finished the majority of his work before his death,” states Charles Gibson. "The few instances where his presence was manipulated were achieved either editorially or with simple split screens.”

"Mockingjay – Part 2 features a large Cargo hovercraft on which Katniss stows away,” remarks Gibson. "The photography of that scene was split between Atlanta and Berlin; the interior of the set piece existed only in Berlin and was photographed and inserted into a blue screen proxy set in Atlanta.” A signature weapon makes an appearance. "As in all The Hunger Games movies, Katniss' arrow was always rendered digitally for safety reasons, as was Gale's crossbow. In the Lizard Mutation sequence."


Holograms & UI

All were executed by the amazing Cantina Creative which excels at creating this material for features,” notes Charles Gibson. "These shots usually need to communicate a key point for the audience in a way that doesn't bump them out of the movie. Additionally the design effect might need to indicate a technological origin [Capitol vs. Rebel, for example] or in our case show a political power shift via design of the propaganda graphics. And all of it has to be rendered convincingly as if displayed on a piece of future technology like a Capitol television or a holographic projector. It's complex work that requires excellent visual effects, storytelling and design skills.”


VFX Vendors, Data Wranglers & Alexa

Recruit for the visual effects work were Double Negative, Weta Digital, MPC, The Embassy Visual Effects, Lola VFX, Skulley Effects, Exceptional Minds, Magnopus and previz by Halon. "Fortunately I'd had the good luck to work with most of the facilities before and I was able to cast the companies and supervisors in the roles for which I felt they were best suited,” states Charles Gibson. "I generally try to avoid too much sharing of shots and assets, mostly for scheduling reasons, but we did share some hard models and a number of plates where it made sense.”


Data collection was critical in avoiding issues with compositing, rendering, textures, lighting, shaders and camera tracking. "We had a great team of data wranglers throughout the production so there was quite a bit of information available to all of the vendors. The show used vintage anamorphic lenses from Panavision that needed to be mapped, but once that was done most of the shots were able to be tracked straightforwardly.” Gibson adds, "The show was predominantly shot on Alexa so we decided to use the Alexa native format for the show. For the few times we shot in a different format we pre-converted to an Alexa-like colour space before turning the elements over to the vendor.”

Related links

Check out The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 trailer
Take a look at the Spectre VFX

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