Let’s see what we can learn from the process!

There were six VFX houses working on the new Disney show Hawkeye. They produced everything from trick arrows to giving Lucky the Pizza Dog her signature wink.  

Australian-based visual effects company Rising Sun Pictures produced over 200 VFX for the series which included reproducing the New York City neighborhood outside an apartment where most scenes of the series take place. 

These seamless effects are conceptually simple but provide amazing production value to the series. But how can filmmakers utilize these techniques to elevate their projects?

Marvel's Hawkeye BeforeMarvel's 'Hawkeye' BeforeCredit: Rising Sun Pictures

Rising Sun Pictures Creates New York

RSP was tasked with replicating sections of New York City visible outside of an apartment owned by Kate Bishop’s Aunt Moira. The digital environment is comprised of 2D and 3D VFX elements with familiar landmarks and dozens of buildings.

Compositing Supervisor Neill Barrack elaborated that the RSP team “provided more than 250-degrees of coverage, working from photographic data captured at the practical location.”

They formed it into a digital cyclorama, or a panoramic image on the inside of a cylindrical plane. This gave the team the ability to capture footage from any angle and match camera movements. Barrack said they “added cars, lights, people, and other details appropriate to each scene where it appears.”

Marvel's Hawkeye AfterMarvel's 'Hawkeye' AfterCredit: Rising Sun Pictures

As we said, effects such as these are conceptually simple but they require finesse and attention to detail to be made seamless.

The New York City backdrop was used in half of the show's six episodes and was elevated with atmospheric elements.

“We added snow flurries to all the night-time shots by adding hundreds of thousands of snowflakes,” said Barrack. They even added condensation to the windows at points.

VFX have become crucial to the MCU, but with Marvel’s budget, hired talent, and workflow, they have become easier to produce. So how do budget filmmakers produce these types of effects for their project without breaking the bank?

Budget Solutions

Before VFX compositing tools became available for the general public for next to nothing, replacing environments outside of windows, on television screens, or digital devices was an expensive task. 

But that has changed. 

Filmmakers now have access to Blender, DaVinci Resolve with Fusion, and Adobe After Effects. While the latter works off a subscription service, Blender is free, and Resolve also has a free feature-rich option. 

So how would budget filmmakers approach the Hawkeye effects?

Conceptually, it’s very simple. What RSP did is called a set extension. While it can be used to replace windows in an interior such as a room or a car, it can also be used to extend an exterior space. Take a look at what set extensions are capable of in this breakdown from Stargate Studios from over a decade ago!

To utilize a set extension in your project, create some background plates yourself, either with a camera or even your smartphone. You can even use stock footage. It all depends on your final composition. 

Then use either green screen to block out the space in your window and replace it in your compositing software. Be sure to focus on matching luminance, saturation, and contrast. If you have camera movement, be sure to track your footage so your composition matches. Adobe After Effects has amazing built-in tools as well as Fusion with DaVinci Resolve.

If you have subjects passing in front of your green screen, make sure to mask them out using the rotoscoping technique. Don’t know what that is? Here’s Casey Faris to the rescue. 

In lieu of a green screen, creatives can also use a projector to achieve a similar effect without worrying about rotoscoping. Director Jono Seneff created an amazing spec commercial for Tesla using the projector method when shooting inside the car.

For more details on this project, check out this interview with Jono. 

The seamless VFX in Martel’s Hawkeye offered amazing production value, and with the tools available today, filmmakers can achieve the same thing with their cell phone, some free software, and a little bit of planning. Yes, you may have to learn how to motion track and rotoscope, but knowing more about what goes into VFX will only make you a better filmmaker. 

And that’s all we’re trying to be. 

Source: Creative Cow