Leave the World Behind
In this apocalyptic thriller from award-winning writer and director Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), Amanda (Academy Award winner Julia Roberts) and her husband Clay (Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke), rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). Their vacation is soon upended when two strangers — G.H. (Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) — arrive in the night, bearing news of a mysterious cyberattack and seeking refuge in the house they claim is theirs. The two families reckon with a looming disaster that grows more terrifying by the minute, forcing everyone to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world.
Led by VFX Supervisor Avi Goodman, Framestore’s Melbourne studio delivered 35 shots in total - with the CFX team having lent their skills to some eye-catching creature designs, and our environments team creating photoreal spaces that bookend the film’s trajectory.
The Sinistrous Herd of Deers
The protagonists Amanda (Julia Roberts) and Clay (Ethan Hawke) are shown escaping the city life’s hustle and bustle to a lavish weekend home in Long Island - surrounded by abundant wilderness and scenic beauty. But as the plot starts to thicken, one of the first signs that something inexplicably sinister and catastrophic will soon befall the world is when an abnormally large herd of silent, staring deers are spotted in the backyard of the family’s rented holiday home.
“The deers were worked on from scratch,” states VFX Supervisor Avi Goodman, drawing on Framestore’s widespread creature and animation skills
Once the male stag’s 3D model was built, and the skeleton and muscle structure were carefully designed in tandem with the director’s brief, the team then took on the challenge of perfecting its actions and movements. A pre-existing animation library housing different walking, standing, and movement cycles was tapped into to help choreograph the creature’s interactions with its surrounding environments in as realistic a way as possible.
“For the group deer sequence shots, we started off by making a generic male stag and then branched off into a female doe, followed by a baby deer. After that came the Hero stag - who is a bigger, bulkier and more muscular version of the generic male stag. Once we had all the different versions of the deer built out, we came up with 5-6 antler and texture variations for each of the types and randomised them across all of our shots,” explains Goodman. “There was one particular scene in the movie that called for a top angle shot of a large group of deers gathered outside the family’s house, and that was quite a challenging scene for us to put together as it required a lot of plant reparation work, removal of some existing roads and houses, and replacing them with digital trees and foliage.”
Flamingos in the Pool
The Flamingos play a significant role in addressing an underlying theme in the film - the impact of an apocalyptic disaster on animal immigration patterns. As the plot unravels, we see that the deers are not the only species to have invaded the Long Island holiday home. Soon after, Ruth (Myha'la) and Clay (Ethan Hawke) stumble upon four flamingos splashing their way through the swimming pool late at night- serving as yet another symbol of something dark and heinous looming in the background and the animals behaving erratically in response
As with the deer, the team spent a good amount of time working on the flamingo’s physique and structure - pulling references from other creature work in Framestore’s arsenal. “This was a significant shot for us to put together,” says VFX Supervisor Avi Goodman.
The Texturing and Modelling team in Melbourne also had to work in close collaboration to ensure all the intricate details and features of the creature contributed to its sense of magical realism. Since the emphasis of the scene lies on the flapping of the wings (a sign of distress and chaos), the animation team had to carefully analyse different wing movements and gestures of a real-life Flamingo, before replicating that movement in the animation.
The Universe and Beyond
Framestore was tasked with creating a few big, surreal-looking, thematic environment shots that play a monumental role in the film’s storyline. At the start of the film, there is a shot from space looking down on Earth - meant to showcase Earth’s pristine beauty and charm before the apocalyptic chaos takes over. The space shot called for a cross-over between the skills of our environments team and the software ‘Terragen’ - used specifically to help design and create terrains on different surfaces. “While Terragen was a tricky software for us to control, we got some really good results by the end of it,” comments VFX Supervisor Avi Goodman.
Leave The World Behind is now streaming on Netflix