Earlier today Variety writer David S. Cohen wrote an interesting piece outlining the current state of the visual effects industry, and how the global rise of smaller VFX companies capable of doing high-end, blockbuster-worthy work has upset traditional studio business models. Basically, the VFX game no longer belongs strictly to titans like Industrial Light & Magic, and that's thrown the whole sector into disarray. But we're not here to talk supply and demand financial models and studio politics (hit Variety for that discussion). We're here for the fun stuff. And in the case of Atomic Fiction, the mind-blowing stuff.
Atomic Fiction is a relatively new VFX studio with a hand in some of last year's finest effects-driven sequences. It built the vehicles and sci-fi cityscapes for Rian Johnson's fantastic Looper, and it also did a lot of the environmental and flying bits of the best part of Robert Zemeckis' Flight; the stunning plane-crash sequence that opens the movie. Earlier this week Atomic Fiction put up videos showcasing its work in both films and what it shows will make your jaw drop.
Yes, yes-- obviously the plane crash in Flight was fake. Obviously the futuristic cities of Looper don't exist. What makes these videos particularly impressive, though, is that they reveal just how many elements in both films were entirely digital. We're talking total transformations of entire locations in Flight. It's especially fascinating to see the seemingly mundane elements that get added to each film to complete the illusion of a shot. In particular, the planes at the gates in Flight and what looks like a rooftop shanty hut in Looper as the helicopter passes. There's an attention to detail here that's awesome in the most literal sense of the word.
Also worth watching is Atomic Fiction's 2012 demo reel, which includes a little chunk of something that made me drop an audible "Holy sh*t!" Perhaps it's common knowledge and I'm just playing catch up, but I had no idea that Underworld star Scott Speedman wasn't actually in the latest film, Underworld: Awakening. That's a little strange since I've seen the movie and quite distinctly remember Speedman being in it, albeit briefly. What happened was another actor filled in on set and Atomic Fiction was hired to replace the stand-in's face with an incredibly convincing digital version of Speedman. The ethics of producers opting for a digital cameo over the real actor is another issue entirely, but you gotta admit the effect that pulled it off is wild.
And lastly, here's a little tech demo that the studio put together to show off its production pipeline. Basically, the filmmakers shot in an empty warehouse and then created everything digitally. The result not only looks rad, but offers a cute little moment in a sci-fi world.
Follow along on Twitter: @PeterSHall and @Moviesdotcom.