March 25, 2016

Constructing Mayhem: How They Pulled Off the Insane VFX of 'Deadpool'

It took the collaboration of several studios to pull off this year's best visual effects.

Too often with recent entries into the superhero canon, it feels like we're being ruthlessly beaten over the head by CGI effects. This year, Tim Miller's Deadpool proved the rare exception. Watching the film, the VFX blend seamlessly into the action and go virtually unnoticed. And this wasn't any accident.

Prior to his big screen debut in February, Miller's day job had been running the VFX company Blur Studios with his friend and visual supervisor David Stinnett. The award-winning company is responsible for effects in projects ranging from the intergalactic sequences in Avatar, to critically acclaimed game trailers, to the abstract black-on-black opening titles inThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They even worked on a Disney Marvel movie before switching over to Fox, heading up the three-minute prologue sequence that sets the stage for Thor: The Dark World.

To put it simply, Miller knew how important the quality of the VFX would be to Deadpool's success.

James Cameron's 'Avatar'
James Cameron's 'Avatar'

Miller valued the VFX of production so much that he knew he couldn't pull it off alone. He brought together an all-star group of visual effects vendors, including Digital Domain (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Speed Racer), Luma Pictures (Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man), Rodeo FX (Game of Thrones, Pacific Rim), Ollin VFX (Her, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Image Engine (Jurassic World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Atomic Fiction (The Walk, Stark Trek: Beyond) and Weta Digital (Batman vs. Superman, The BFG). Each of these vendors was then assigned various responsibilities while Blur Studios acted as the managerial hub. Weta, for example, was responsible for Deadpool's face, while Atomic Fiction took on the highway chase scene in the beginning. 

Thanks to their efforts, our suspension of disbelief is held in check throughout the entire film. We're never drawn out of the "Merc" with a Mouth's world due to cheaply produced effects; instead, the ridiculous action sequences somehow seem totally plausible. One such action sequence — arguably the best in the film — is broken down layer by layer in this behind-the-scenes video released by the visual effects studio Atomic Fiction.

The studio attributes its success with the Deadpool sequence to a cloud rendering platform they developed in-house called Conductor. In an interview with Art of VFX, they explain:

"All of Atomic Fiction’s heavy rendering is done with ConductorIO, a cloud rendering platform we developed for internal use, and have since spun off as a stand-alone company. On Deadpool, 7 million core hours were rendered in the cloud. 80% of the rendering on Deadpool occurred in just 8 weeks of the 36-week schedule, with one single week accounting for about 20%. This really demonstrates how important it is to be able to scale resources up and down. Another way to look at it is that we would have needed a local render farm of around 32,000 cores to get through that one week. That’s a lot of horsepower for any size company, let alone a mid-sized studio like Atomic Fiction."

On their company website, Atomic Fiction offers a beta version of the software which they define as "cloud rendering."

"It encompasses the entire rendering workflow from end to end, managing uploads and downloads, queuing, security, and cloud resources with unmatched performance and efficiency," the description reads. Some of the features include:

  • The most widely-used 2D & 3D applications supported
  • Scales massively; stays fast as workloads grow
  • Integrates into custom pipelines
  • Enterprise-grade cloud security from end to end
  • Real-time cost tracking and management
  • Automated data de-duplication for faster file transfers
  • State-of-the-art cloud technologies built in at the core level
  • Pay one all-inclusive price for what you use, by the minute
  • Improve productivity by 20%; reduce rendering costs by 50%

If you're an aspiring VFX designer, you may want to register and check it out. For an even more intense breakdown of the highway chase scene, be sure and check out The Art of VFX's interview with Ryan Tudhope, Co-Founder & VFX Supervisor of Atomic Fiction.     

Your Comment

15 Comments

f*ck so many effort and talent people to produce such emptiness. We have become mindless.

March 25, 2016 at 2:43PM

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Tiago Carvalhas
Director
140

I agree, but it is still worth noting that empty movies are being made by very talented people with high standards on the production side, so if ever the system for green-lighting scripts changed, the people to make a difference are already there.

March 25, 2016 at 6:00PM

20
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Saied M.
1214

This is fast food for the lazy brains. I know a great number of people that regularly consume food in those franchised shitholes. And some of them think they eat healthy food. Amazing.

March 29, 2016 at 3:19AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1516

i agree

March 31, 2016 at 7:01AM

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The software and the talent of those guys are awesome. The overuse of (often bad) CGI in most of modern blockbusters is annoying.

March 25, 2016 at 5:35PM

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David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1320

Do you mean 'canon', i.e. a body of work?

March 25, 2016 at 6:08PM, Edited March 25, 6:08PM

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Mike Hutchinson
Sound Designer/Translator (Dutch to English)
85

When its all CG is it still an effect? Nobody says the special effects in the latest animated film are great, because everything is CG. Just because it looks (semi) real doesn't change the rules=) Awesome stuff, but when its more fake than real, its barely a step up from Zootopia, just not cute=)

March 25, 2016 at 7:14PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
931

The video sums up exactly why I think best cinematography awards shouldn't be given to effects-laden films. e.g. Gravity and Life of Pi. For real those films were 90% animated...

March 26, 2016 at 4:25AM

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Matt Nunn
Amateur
562

Totally agree. No way Life of Pi should have beat something like Skyfall. Gravity was even worse in that regard. I can respect the fact that the long takes in Birdman and The Revenant—though still heavily reliant on visual effects—could warrant an Oscar, but Lubezki's win for Gravity was just crazy to me. I can't help but feel like it was far more of an effects achievement than a cinematography achievement.

The Revenant was far and away the most deserving cinematography win of those three films (I thought Birdman's cinematography was gimicky and distracting after just a few minutes), but it was hard to root for it because I just really just wanted to something more old school like Sicario or The Hateful Eight win for a change. Even the effects heavy Fury Road deserved more credit IMO for doing such a great job making incredibly fast, frenetic action coherent on screen. Plus it had the whole "shooting in insane conditions" thing going for it just like The Revenant did.

March 26, 2016 at 4:48AM

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David West
Filmmaker
971

I think the way Birdman was shot and pieced together was great for giving us the sense of the story happening in real time, and the shooting style was different from most other films of that year. I do however agree that Sicario was incredible from all angles, and should have been more awarded, however when I think about it awards are pretty useless (even if they rake in extra $), and all that matters is that I enjoyed the film and can talk about it with fellow enthusiasts.

May 11, 2016 at 2:56AM

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Sebastian Kammonen
Filmmaker
405

Yeah, Deadpool was a silly flick, but I enjoyed it. Not everything needs to be high art.

March 26, 2016 at 3:03PM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
495

No, everything needs to be high art. That film was horrible.

March 26, 2016 at 8:01PM, Edited March 26, 8:01PM

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Henry Barnill
Director of Photography
637

Cool how all 5 people who did not like this movie found their way into this forum ;)

March 29, 2016 at 7:27AM, Edited March 29, 7:27AM

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Johan Salberg
Actor, Writer, Director, Editor
262

yahooo wonder full experience

March 31, 2016 at 6:59AM

0
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Please watch my short!

there are zero special effects, so it obviously belongs here:

www.funnyordie.com/videos/4ecdae8911/laund-ro-mat

March 31, 2016 at 8:52PM

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Joe Lewis
161