Grading and VFX on Elysium
Personally I really enjoyed District 9, even if I didn’t totally ‘get it’ as a film. (I mean I understood what it was all about, but I wasn’t sure if I totally connected with it.) But I’m incredibly excited to see director Neill Blomkamp’s next effort which looks, in a word, awesome.
Elysium Visual Effects
FXGuide has a fantastically detailed write up on the production and its VFX workflow. The article covers the miniatures, CGI and design work involved in creating the film’s futuristic world both on planet earth and inside the titular Elysium. A brilliant read.
Elysium was shot on RED EPIC cameras by DOP Trent Opaloch using anamorphic lenses (resulting in a resolution of about 3.3K that was then mastered at 4K for release). Filming took place on location in Mexico City and in Vancouver. Interestingly, Muyzers says they used an ACES color pipeline for the production. “Neill could sit in the theater at Image Engine and be confident they would look the same in the theater with an audience. And the same at the DI house – it was a unified color workflow.”
UPDATE: Debra Kaufman has a good interview with VFX house Image Engine and it’s two VFX Supervisors (Associate Visual Effects Supervisor Andrew Chapman and overall Production Visual Effects Producer Shawn Walsh) about their work on the film from pre-production to delivering final effects shots.
Walsh points out how this methodology also helped keep Elysium within budget. “Complexity drives cost, and trying to come up with processes that enable a more efficient process or methodology can control costs,” he says. “Using the gray suit actors on set to stand in for droids was similar to what we did in District 9 and Battleship, and it enables us to know a bit more about what the result was going to be. We were able to get buy-in from key parts of the production with the assumption of how we were going to achieve that work, and that enabled us to budget that more aggressively.”
Colour Grading Elysium
The Coloristos have a brilliant hour long audio interview with Andrea Chlebak on how she got started in the business, using Baselight and grading Elysium. It’s a fantastic interview because as colorists they know all the right questions to ask to get into the nitty gritty of working on a visual effects heavy hollywood film.
In the final grade, Chlebak used Baselight to create a nuanced color palette between Earth and Elysium. “A lot of the film’s aesthetic was rooted in photography and art direction, so I took cues from those approaches and explored a number of different directions,” Chlebak said. “Using ACES kept all aspects of the production rolling at the same time, allowing us all to really push the process and get a really terrific, seamless result.”
Studio Daily has a much more in depth interview with Andrea and the DI process.
We needed a lot of time because we needed to step away and come back with fresh eyes. Starting early on while they were still cutting, Neill could step away from that environment, where he was looking at dailies color, and come into the DI suite and be in a whole new world where he could take the opportunity to experiment with some looks and further articulate his vision. He called it an honest approach — he wanted the image to feel honest and not like it had been graded. That’s a tricky order.
UPDATE – Post Magazine and TV Bay both have articles on Andrea’s grading of Elysium on her Baselight system that are worth a read. Post Magazine has some particularly good details on the VFX grading workflow.
Basically, the VFX vendors were all receiving ungraded EXRs, graded EXRs and a CDL from Baselight of what the grade was, so if they needed to back out of the grade for any reason they could,” recalls Chlebak. “At first, we did all of the pre-grading for VFX plates with the VFX supervisor, grading at 50 or 100 shots at any one time. With him knowing what was coming in terms of effects and me knowing what the final look of that scene was going to be, we were able to work together to optimize the pre-grade for both VFX and DI simultaneously.
Elysium Making Of Featurettes
Thanks to Behind VFX you can check out all of the available behind the scenes featurettes/EPK’s available for Elysium, including the soundtrack, although you might want to hold off watching them too much if you want to enjoy the film for all its worth.