Everest, the feature film by renowned Icelandic film-maker Baltasar Kormákur, charts the 1996 true story of two fateful expedition groups caught in tumultuous storms whilst attempting to reach the world’s most treacherous summit. Armed with a wealth of reference material at hand from previous expedititions, it was Framestore’s task to create an accurate setting for the film, reflecting both the beauty and intense majesty of the mountain. Work on over 200 shots included the creation of full CG sequences; significant digital matte painting to supplement green screen shooting and set extensions; and visual effects to emulate the snow and cloud formations which have become synonymous with the world’s highest peak.
VES Award Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature: Everest
Satellite Award Nominated
Best Visual Effects
Jupiter Award Nominated
Best International Film
Camerimage Award Nominated
Best 3D Film
'The CG shots are stunning. Some of the strongest reactions I’ve heard have centred around the amazing "cinematography" of the shots around the summit. It was a real pleasure working with Framestore. I hope we have the opportunity to work together again.'Dadi Einarsson - Production VFX Supervisor
For Framestore CG Supervisor Rob Allman, capturing and creating the recognisable peaks, climb stages and soaring views of Everest formed much of the challenge. ‘We knew from the start that there were certain shots – the wide, majestic establishers – that were extremely important to the team. It had to be recognisable, a recreation of the views people the world over have learned to associate with ‘Everest’. In these cases, we created fully CG shots, in order to get the details just right’. The aerial sequence over the South Summit is a prime example, as the camera tracks above and beyond the highest point on Earth.
Studying the Storms
The spindrift was important to get right as it's a permanent fixture of Everest – the light, swirling patterns of snow that’s been kicked up by the wind on the surface. Framestore Compositing Supervisor, Alex Payman, notes that at times, it was important to keep the spindrift in check. ‘The storms would have created full-on white-out conditions; however in order to maintain the audience’s sense of place on the mountain, as they take this journey with the climbers, we had to bring it down. Considering too, the sound that had to be added, we didn’t want the effect to be completely overwhelming. On the other hand, it couldn’t look too clean, too CG - it was a fine balance to strike’.
Painting the picture
Significant portions of the film were shot in the Italian Dolomites. In one key view of Everest, live action is used in the foreground; from mid-way up the scene CG takes over, taking us smoothly from Italy to the South Summit. Digital matte painting was added to accurately recreate the rock textures, again with lighting matched from the shoot plates.
For the intricate establishing shots, the team had a helicopter rigged with six cameras on its underside, capturing continuous 360 footage during the shoot. Says Damien Macé, digital matte painter, 'What it gave us was a 3D camera position for each picture around Everest, so we were able to rebuild and project all of that base information. This was not an easy task, as it was not automatic - most of that work has to be done by hand - but it did mean we could recreate big chunks of the mountain very, very accurately, then go on to enhance the quality shot by shot with traditional matte painting techniques’. Another challenge was the most prominent colour; White, which is the most unforgiving colour for the DMP team to work with. Any small errors will show up in the grading and saturation, so a great deal of work went into finding the right snow references with the right lighting from which to colour-match.
Framestore artists were granted access to the original IMAX expedition material, GoPro footage from more recent climbs, and some exclusive film from Cotter of Adventure Consultants. Overall, Everest proved a conquerable challenge for Framestore’s teams, who pulled together the most accurate and intricate portrayal of the peak possible. ‘I think we have some really realistic shots in the finished product’, says Macé. ‘The team did some incredible work. The big establishers, especially, they have a certain thrill which will work especially well in 3D. The hero is the mountain – that’s the main character in the story, and we were lucky to be able to work on the centrepiece of the project’.
There's one star in this movie: Everest.Rolling Stones
This brusquely visualized, choppily played epic serves as the latest cinematic opportunity for Mother Nature to flaunt her utter indifference to human survival.Variety
The best argument in favor of what otherwise would be a pointlessly cruel loss of human life are the sweeping, heart-stoppingly beautiful mountain vistas.A.V. Club
As director Baltasar Kormákur’s camera appears to glide just above the highest ridge of Everest, this mass of rock, snow and ice is just as terrifying and mysterious as the vast blackness of outer space itself.Time Out