Recent Tom Cruise crowd-pleaser Edge of Tomorrow brought on Daniel Kramer, VFX supervisor for Sony Imageworks, to create effects for the film adaptation of the novel All You Need is Kill, which stars Cruise and Emily Blunt. Kramer, who previously put his craft to work on huge action films like Spider Man and Independence Day talked about his process on the film in a recent article in Below the Line.
Kramer came onto the project near the time that the film started shooting and had to spend a good amount of time building assets, so he was crunching under tight deadlines. “We had a year from the time I showed up at Leavesden to the time we wrapped things up,” Kramer mentioned. “The actual time working on shots was much more compressed as we spent a lot of time building up assets. We had 130 [crew] credits, including production people and support staff in addition to artists and compositors. We had two different CG supervisors each with a team of 15 doing all of the beach shots. We only had one unit responsible for lighting and composition even though we needed three.”
One of the challenges that came to the plate was matching director Doug Liman’s vision for the aliens, which he wanted to be very fast moving. “Doug wanted it to really be different,” Kramer said. “Always moving and writhing. He wanted them to move incredibly fast, subverting time and space when they move. I was worried that any time you have something moving that fast, it tends to look digital. As long as we paired it with effects animation and burst sand off of the character, it became more believable that it moved that fast and made it a little more mysterious.”
Edge of Tomorrow merged CGI and live-action effects, which allowed them to work both types of visuals in stylishly. “By combining live-action, pyro, and digital versions of pyro, we could generate more views of the different explosions,” Kramer said. “They could start layering them in and matting them into each scene. In addition to the live-action pyro and generated pyro that we created, we had destruction clips. A CG Jeep ramming into a wall as we rendered it from many different angles. A compositor would pick the appropriate clip and track it into a shot. By reusing the clips over and over again in 2D, we could fill them up with assets.”
Kramer ended up pleased with the live-action effects of the film. “It was impressive to be on set,” he recalled. “Gas explosions, which would burn black smoke columns into the sky, mortars, air cannons filled with foam rocks and dirt. It was clear that they wanted to go over the top. When we got the first couple of shots, we tried things out and ran them by Nick Davis and Doug. We kept adding and adding. An explosion might have taken your eye away from the action, but not because it was too much destruction.”
(Below the Line)