32TEN Studios, a practical effects company based in San Rafael, Calif., provided a number of practical effects for Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ The Lone Ranger, which opened July 3.
32TEN worked directly with Disney’s associate producer and VFX producer Shari Hanson, and with ILM’s VFX supervisor Tim Alexander as well as MPC’s VFX supervisor, Gary Brozenich. The film’s director, Gore Verbinski, had previously worked with 32TEN Studio’s practical FX supervisor Geoff Heron on several of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films.
The primary sequence created by 32TEN was the destruction of the train trestle bridge, which included several shots of the bridge blowing up and collapsing. The shots were meticulously choreographed in previz by Alex Cannon, directed by Verbinski and handed to 32TEN to be shot using 1/5th scale miniatures.
Three separate sections of the bridge were built at 32TEN Studios by model supervisor Ben Nichols and a team of 22 model makers, with help from one of the movie’s production designers Crash McCreery, and VFX supervisor Alexander. At 1/5th scale, the largest model was 33 feet long and 25 feet tall. The three sections were placed outdoors in the backlot at 32TEN, inside a 50 x 50 water tank, and against an 80 x 32 foot greenscreen. They were shot using high speed Vistavision. Heron and his team used pyro, hydraulics and mechanical rigs to create the destruction required by Verbinski, who was watching closely from L.A., via a live video feed.
In addition, the 32TEN FX team also spent a week shooting other practical elements and pick-up shots with extras, both for ILM and for MPC in London. Both facilities were able to supervise via live feed to London, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“I knew, as we set out to design the narrative, that the story of The Lone Ranger was going to be epic,” Verbinski said. “It was therefore critically essential to ground the film in as much reality as possible. I wanted the audience to taste the dust. So we made it the way westerns were made in their heyday – filming across five states and embracing everything nature threw at us. When it came time to scale the larger-than-life effects, 32TEN Studios were in stride with that intention. They painstakingly adapted their approach through craft, passion and good cinematographic science, until it was absolutely believable.”
“Working with the amazing talent at 32TEN is like coming home for me,” Hanson said. “Over the years, I’ve worked with this team on hundreds of miniatures and practical effects. When our big miniatures and key special effects elements came up for The Lone Ranger, I knew we needed absolute perfection matching into our live action film. The 32TEN team was able to deliver in our true Lone Ranger style of large scope and spectacular images, all beautifully executed.”
“Working with the artists and technicians at 32TEN reminded me of why I got into this business in the first place,” McCreery said. “With CG taking over so much of the visual effects needs of films these days, it was fantastic to actually watch a practical model, built by hand, blow up for real – to feel the heat and concussion of the explosion. 32TEN had such a challenge set before them: to replicate an event originally constructed and executed entirely in a computer generated animatic.”