October 2012

"Framestore did a great job on the VFX for the title sequence, working with the very talented Daniel Kleinman on his sixth Bond titles. This team always produce great visuals and we were really pleased with the final results." Barbara Broccoli, Skyfall Producer

Skyfall marks 50 years of James Bond on the big screen and, in the latest 007 collaboration between Daniel Kleinman and Framestore, we have a title sequence worthy of such an anniversary. Applauded at the premiere, the four-minute sequence opens underwater as Bond sinks lifelessly into the gloom, before Kleinman’s creative direction sends us on a spiralling journey into Bond’s subconscious.

Taking Kleinman’s first round of storyboards, a 3D pre-visualisation was created with partner company The Third Floor that refined the concepts and established the sense of continuous movement that Skyfall director Sam Mendes and Kleinman sought. Next came a live-action shoot at Pinewood Studios that included an underwater tank for that opening drowning shot, a day with Daniel Craig to shoot actions for the titles and the iconic ‘gun barrel sequence’, and another of girls and guns.

“No one can be too precious about their own pixels”

Framestore’s team was lead by William Bartlett as VFX Supervisor, who was joined by Diarmid Harrison-Murray (Head of 3D Commercials) and Russell Dodgson (Head of Nuke Commercials). The team developed sequences in parallel with regular input from the director. “One of the challenges was to give the artists room to develop ideas, with the understanding that some might be dropped or changed as the job evolved," says Dodgson. "The aim is for a cohesive sequence, that feels like it comes from one person’s mind. No one can be too precious about their own pixels!”

“This flexible way of working requires a different mindset but provides a great opportunity for creative ownership” says Harrison-Murray. “By assigning all the VFX work – from setup, animation through to lighting – across an entire scene to just one artist, that person is able to develop their scene as a whole, rather than just contributing one smaller element to it. It’s an incredibly satisfying way to work. One great example is Martin Aufinger’s beautiful and technically accomplished CG dragons.”

"We concentrated on visual ways to complement Adele’s song"

Nuke was a key tool for the job and was used in some way by every artist. One of the most important tasks to be carried out was creating the 3D cameras used to join the continuous forward camera movement. William Bartlett took charge:

“From experience I have found that getting an overall sense of timing and movement is key to the job’s success” says Bartlett. “As soon as we received an early version of Adele’s song we concentrated on finding visual ways to complement the ebb and flow of the music. To do this, scenes were blocked out in Nuke, incorporating the live action footage, cameras and basic geometry. These were exported to the 3D team for development and execution.”

Some of the biggest CG challenges were the full-3D volumetric environments, such as the heart, made up of hundreds of veins, that transforms into a skull. Not only was it a difficult task to procedurally animate and simulate all the veins, but the volumetric nature of the shots and the interactive lighting posed a huge rendering challenge to the team. Houdini was chosen due to its fantastic volumetric rendering capacities. Combined with our creative input, its physically based render engine really pushed the quality of the images.

A classic Bond moment

Evolving right to the last minute, the piece closes with a dramatic sequence, which sees blood raining from the sky and bleeding gravestones crumble to the sound of Adele's powerful voice. A classic Bond moment. A piece that Framestore is proud to have been part of.

An Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Production in association with MGM and Columbia Pictures

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