VFX Legion on post work for Blumhouse ‘Black Christmas’

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Led by VFX Supervisor James David Hattin, VFX Legion’s global team of artists created all of the visual effects for Black Christmas, the second remake of the classic holiday horror film.  Blumhouse Productions returned to the LA/B.C.-based company for a range of digital shots – from blanketing the exterior scenes with CG snow to adding visual effects that augment the ominous look of the supernatural villain.

Black Christmas is the story of a group of sorority girls who are being stalked and killed off, one-by-one, by a masked stranger during Christmas break. Refusing to be victims, coeds Riley Stone (Imogen Poots) and her Mu Kappa Epsilon sisters decide to fight back and put an end to the rampage of terror. Take a look below at the VFX breakdown reel:

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Shot in New Zealand, The University of Otago was transformed into the fictitious Hawthorn College in small-town America. Snow, an essential element of the film’s seasonal setting, was fabricated during the production but fell short of the authentic look director Sophia Takal envisioned. VFX Legion met the challenge, digitally transforming the exterior footage into a realistic winter-white environment.

Before: CG snow added to the roof and cornices of The Clocktower Building at The University of Otago, New Zealand
After: CG snow added to the roof and cornices of The Clocktower Building at The University of Otago, New Zealand

“We created snowflakes with variations in size and animated them to fall in a very art directed way to match the practical snow,” says Hattin. “Our artists fabricated high-resolution, 3D snowflakes using Nuke’s advanced particle system.  The color of the flakes was adjusted to compensate for lighter and darker backgrounds.”

    Before: Digital snow added to branches on tree; Practical snow on ground enhanced with a blanket of photo-real digital snow
    After: Digital snow added to branches on tree; Practical snow on ground enhanced with a blanket of photo-real digital snow

“Our biggest challenge was finding a look that blended with the practical snow to create seamless final shots with a real-world feel,” adds Hattin.
VFX Legion’s matte painters added 3D snow on trees, front yards, streets, the mountainous background, and other elements. Some of the details dealt with digitally included adding textures left by footprints and creating natural-looking accumulations of snow.

Before: Villain about to stab coed with computer generated icicle; digitally augment snow and lighting enhance realistic look 
After: Villain about to stab coed with computer generated icicle; digitally augment snow and lighting enhance realistic look 

Early on, it was clear that the human-looking supernatural villain needed a more demonic look, while his overall appearance remained grounded in the real world.  Legion added a subtle reddish glow to the pupils of the killer’s eyes. Developed by the director and editor, the effect gave the antagonist a distinctly evil look, clearly differentiating him from the general population.

 Before: CG arrow added to shot of supernatural villain holding bow, along with digitally created reflections of light and snowflakes
 After: CG arrow added to shot of supernatural villain holding bow, along with digitally created reflections of light and snowflakes

 A variety of CG elements augmented the original footage for Black Christmas. The masked man shoots a computer-generated arrow that virtually flies across a room as the girls flee. The arrow was designed based on reference photos using Maya, which was also used to light and animate the look and velocity of the projectile. Tracking artist Ruy Delgado matched the stunt arrow’s trajectory with the camera moves. 

The reign of terror ends when a girl pushes over an ancient statue containing a ‘black goo’ that is the source of the villain’s other-world powers. Using Maya’s Bifrost Legion’s artists simulated the liquid sludge splashing out of the head of the effigy as it shatters into pieces.

Before: Shot augmented with CG fragments and particles of shattered statue, and simulated splash of ‘back goo’ 
After: Shot augmented with CG fragments and particles of shattered statue, and simulated splash of ‘back goo’ 

“Over the years, Blumhouse Productions has called on Legion to create the visual effects for a long roster of thrillers,” says Hattin. “Our team appreciates the opportunity to work in the horror film genre. We really enjoy coming up with innovative solutions that meet the challenge of enhancing the realism of scary scenarios.”

“For Black Christmas, Legion assembled a team tailored to film’s specific needs from our global network of highly skilled artists,” says VFX Executive Producer, Reid Burns. “Our ability to quickly ramp up Legion’s collective of talent enabled us to deliver a large number of high-quality visual effects that the movie required and meet its tight deadline.”

CREDITS:

  • Client: Blumhouse Productions
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller, Slasher Film

Production Companies: 

Blumhouse Productions, LA   

Producer: Jason Blum

Divide/Conquer, LA   

  • Producers: Ben Cosgrove, Adam Hendricks      
  • Executive Producers: Greg Gilreath, Zac Locke, Adam Hendricks
  • Director: Sophia Takal
  • Screenplay:  Sophia Takal, April Wolfe
  • Cinematographer: Mark Schwartzbard
  • Editor: Jeff Betancourt
  • First Assistant Editor: Jay Sacharoff  
  • Line Producer: Chloe Smith 

Visual Effects:  VFX Legion,  LA/B.C.   

  • Visual Effects Supervisor: James David Hattin   
  • CG Supervisor: Rommel S. Calderon
  • Visual Effects Producer: Nate Smalley   
  • Visual Effects Executive Producer: Reid Burns   
  • Visual Effects Project Manager: Dylan Yastremski   
  • Visual Effects Coordinator: Matthew Noren   
  • Tracking Artists: Ruy Delgado   
  • Tracking Artist: Gerald Feather   
  • Digital Matte Painter: Dave Tipper   
  • 3D Artist: Blake Anderson       

Compositors:

  • Suzette Barnett 
  • Cyntia Buell       
  • Ben Case         
  • Patrick Conaty         
  • Nick Guth          
  • H Haden Hammond         
  • Austin Hiser         
  • Allan Torp Jensen       
  • Adam Kelway         
  • Christopher Klassen         
  • Gabriel Köerner         
  • Matthias Lowry         
  • Matthew T. Lynn         
  • Kaell Matias       
  •  John R. McConnell       
  •  Brad Moylan         
  • Eugen Olsen         
  • Charlie Proctor   
  • Andrés Ramírez         
  • Martha Soehendra         
  • Kevin Shawley          
  • Christina Spring   

Pipeline Development:

Brandon Rachal   

Bookkeeping:

Michaela O’Brien

SOURCE: VFX Legion

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