The visual effects and postproduction team at DIVE – a division of ShootersINC – which specializes in visual effects and picture finishing for feature films, television shows and commercials, provided on-set VFX supervision, on-set live compositing and extensive postproduction including the creation of an innovative digital workflow for director Niels Arden Oplev’s (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) newest feature film Dead Man Down, which premiered March 8.
Dead Man Down is an action thriller that stars Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace as two strangers whose mutual desire for revenge draws them together and triggers an escalating trail of mayhem. The film, which also stars Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper, marks the American theatrical debut of director Oplev.
“As the majority of shooting would take place in Philadelphia doubling as New York City, I wanted to find a house that I could work with there on camera tests to review and color correct them in a good DI environment,” explained director of photography Paul Cameron, ASC. “On set, I worked with DIVE’s VFX supervisor Ed Mendez on a number of scenes requiring visual effects. Ed was there for all practical greenscreen scenes. Early in production, he assisted me shooting the balcony plates on RED Epic 5K. Then on the tenement/balcony set in Philadelphia, Ed provided live composites with the NYC plates. It really helped to line up shots and adjust perspectives. We pulled live screen grabs from the composites, so the editorial team could see our alignment from each camera. It was a great tool for making lighting adjustments as well. I want to add praise for John-Michael Trojan at DIVE. He established the digital workflow with DIT Dane Brehm and SIXTEEN19 for transcoding the dailies and securing the metadata. Everyone at DIVE was really great to collaborate with on this film.”
Mendez and VFX producer Andy Williams were on location with Cameron shooting in New York, as well as extensive shooting on set in Philadelphia. The production team built three stories of the Lower East Side tenement building featured in the film at an old sea plane hangar in the naval yard in Philadelphia. This was where Mendez completed live compositing. They also shot on the actual U.S.S. United States, a ship from 1952 dry-docked in Philadelphia.
Key visual effects sequences that DIVE’s Mendez supervised included scenes of Farrell and Rapace on the balconies of their New York City apartment building, as well as a concluding battle and crash scene. “The crash scene is one of my favorites in the film,” Mendez said. “We shot all the elements needed for the car to fly over the six-camera setup and crash into the house. In the end, it worked out as we planned on set and you are able to see the surrounding neighborhood in the shot.”
“It was a wonderful opportunity working with Paul Cameron, who knows what a VFX team can bring to a set and how VFX will integrate with his photography,” Williams said. “Further, the live compositing that Ed and the team did on set drove the creative direction of the finished VFX shots.”
Trojan served as DIVE’s color pipeline manager, which meant he collaborated closely with Cameron and Brehm to create a digital workflow which allowed Cameron to have a consistent viewing of color whether in the DIVE/ShootersINC DI theater in Philadelphia, on set or on his iPad, which he took home every night to review dailies. “SIXTEEN19 completed the transfer of all the dailies. Paul and Dane came to us well before production started,” explained Trojan. “This helped us to work together to design a dailies pipeline that was truly cutting edge and pushed the boundaries of what was previously possible.”
DIVE’s studio in Philadelphia also hosted the editorial team for Dead Man Down during production, providing Avid editing systems and technical support. The close proximity allowed for more interaction between the visual effects team and the postproduction team. DIVE also provided home for the production team to review multiple camera formats including RED Epic, ARRI Alexa and Canon 300C just as the new Canon camera was released.
During their collaboration on Dead Man Down, the DIVE visual effects and postproduction teams relied on programs including Nuke, Resolve, Conduit and Adobe Photoshop.