News 18.06.18

METHOD STUDIOS MELBOURNE RE-TEAMS WITH DIRECTOR GARTH DAVIS FOR MARY MAGDALENE VFX



An authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood figures in history, Mary Magdalene tells the story of a young woman (Rooney Mara) in search of a new way of living.

Through environment enhancements and subtle visual effects, Method’s Melbourne team helped transport audiences to 33 A.D. as Jesus of Nazareth (Joaquin Phoenix) leads a new social movement. Method VFX Supervisor, David Nelson, and his team delivered approximately 200 VFX shots for the film, including the creation of sweeping landscapes and imposing temple structures as well as augmenting Jesus’ cross-laden walk through town and crucifixion. The project marks Method’s second collaboration with Director Garth Davis, having previously contributed story-driven VFX for his award-winning feature debut Lion.

The creative brief from the director was to make the CG additions as invisible and as historically authentic as possible. The film, which was shot in Sicily, the Basilicata region of Southern Italy, and Naples, used the ancient architecture and landscapes as a basis to recreate the journey of Mary from Magdala to Galilee and Jerusalem. Drawing on historical research and the set designs of Production Designer Fiona Crombie, Method created digital assets of buildings, digital human crowds, and even goats, to create wide panoramas of Mary, Jesus and the disciples on their epic journey.

The films’ Cinematographer, Greig Fraser, elected to shoot the movie in large format 6.5k, the digital equivalent of 65mm, and used a kit of handcrafted lenses to achieve a unique look with a certain softness but retaining a very high level of fine detail. Method’s task was to match the optical characteristics of these unusual lenses and build all digital assets to a level of detail that could withstand scrutiny at the high resolution.

Nelson oversaw the visual effects component of the shooting on location in Italy, collaborating with the director and various on-set departments including set construction, props and makeup, to facilitate the seamless integration of effects, back in Melbourne. Method Studios Melbourne VFX Assistant and Cleanup Supervisor, Keith Meure, was also on set with David to photograph and record every aspect of the locations and architecture as well as moving footage of crowds and extras, to augment the footage and increase the numbers of people by up to 10 times to depict the fervour of Jerusalem during Passover.

Back in Melbourne, the assets team were able to extrapolate a 3D model of the entire city of Matera from the still images through the use of photogrammetry techniques. This enabled the team to place each shooting location accurately within the CG model and matching the real-world cameras for each shot, insert additional crowds and historically appropriate set pieces whilst removing any traces of modern life. The recreation of Temple Mount in Jerusalem is an adaptation of historical locations in Naples combined with CG architecture derived from historical accounts.

The streaming blood, open wounds and ‘crown of thorns’ of Christ’s crucifixion scene was achieved by intricately matching the performance of Joaquin Phoenix with a CG double and running FX fluid simulations of blood over the surfaces of the body. These were then rendered using HDRI lighting setups taken from the actual lighting on location for each shot.

Compositing Supervisor, Tahl Niran, coordinated all of these digital elements into seamless shots, taking care to match all the optical detail of the camera lenses and atmospherics, using panoramic elements of digital matte paintings comprising still images taken on location, intricate crowd performances from Animation Supervisor Nick Tripoli’s team and drifting smoke, fires, clouds and blood from FX Supervisor, Paul Buckley’s team.

VFX Producer, Julian Dimsey, drew on his previous working relationship with the director on Lion to help achieve the ambitious scope of visual effects and coordinate the use of Method’s CG resources in the most efficient and effective way for the film.

The work of Method’s Australian VFX studios can next be seen in highly-anticipated upcoming summer features that include action-disaster epic Skyscraper, historical-drama Outlaw King, family-friendly adventure Christopher Robin, romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians and superhero film Aquaman.