Telling the story of Philippe Petit's high-wire act across the World Trade Center required an amazing amount of VFX. In this fantastic BTS video with VFX Supervisor Kevin Baillie, we get a sense of how much work was required to bring the film to life:
Rodeo FX is thrilled to present some of the stunning VFX work created for Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. Our team delivered more than 100 visual effects shots, including CG reconstructions of the towering World Trade Center and other scenes from 1970s New York.
The shots involving the WTC are incredible, but some of the most impressive to me are those that you'd never suspect were completely fabricated, like the city street shots towards the end of the Rodeo reel. Tons of buildings, cars, and people were digitally created or composited into the scene in a perfectly seamless way. It reminds me of the VFX for Fincher's Gone Girl that showed us how some of the best digitally manipulated shots are the ones you would never suspect have been altered in post.
An iconic figure of the New York skyline for more than 25 years - both physically and emotionally - the Twin Towers were crucial, but challenging, assets that had to be built for the sequence. “You look at them and they’re basically just a bunch of parallel lines going 1400 feet down to the ground,” says Baillie. “If you try to build that in the most literal of senses, it looks CG so fast. There’s nothing like even geometry to make something look fake. So we couldn’t just follow blueprints. We had to put in a lot of artistry - it wasn’t even a mathematical process to make it look real - it was about tweaking the panel gaps or making sure straight lines aren’t quite straight, or it was about how to make it look like the construction workers hadn’t necessarily put the panels on straight and didn’t quite line up right. You couldn’t mess it up too much otherwise it looked crappy and it really blew the scale.”
It's an important lesson here for anyone creating anything in CG. It's the imperfections that help to sell a shot, as our minds are very good at recognizing when something looks "too perfect."