Friday, November 2, 2012

Take Shelter (2011)

Last year a film came out that flew under the radar called "Take Shelter" (2011). Really a fabulous film that had these unbelievable graphics that just looked so realistic. It's about a man who has these intense dreams about the world ending and then basically goes crazy because of them.  Check out the trailer below.

I found an interview with Jeff Nichols, the director of the film, talking about the VFX of the film.


How did you pull off the film’s visual effects?

I’m pragmatic, I’m not just a crazy artist. It doesn’t do me any good to sit down and write $40 million films in my bedroom. But I wrote this film with no real clue of [how to accomplish] the effects component. I didn’t think that one through. Luckily, my agent at the time was representing the Strause Brothers from Hydraulx, and he sent them [my first film], Shotgun Stories, and he sent them script for Take Shelter. They were willing to come on board and do the effects for a very, very reduced price.

Technically, they did algorithms to map bird formations based on starling movement, and they 3D-modeled an entire room [for one shot]—they told me they hadn’t done so much work on a single shot since Avatar.

What about the storm cells? They’re incredible looking—very ominous and very real. What was the secret there?

With a ton of money and a ton of time, they would build fake 3D cloud models, and that way you could spin them all around, make them move as fast or as slow as you want. But they weren’t going to 3D-model all of our storm cells. So Hydraulx found a guy who had taken pictures of a lot of amazing storm cells in the Midwest, and they bought some of his photos for their library and put them up in 2D. There’s a lot less maneuverability, but I didn’t need them to be crazy storms spinning around. I just needed the slow, ominous movement. So the clouds in the film look very real, and that’s because they’re real clouds.

It’s a great example of constraints on budget, and constraints on time, playing to your favor. Because if we’d had the time or the money to 3D-model all those clouds, we would have been sitting there going: Does that look real? As opposed to: Are those real clouds moving enough? I’d much rather be in that position. Independent films are breaking ground on this stuff because we’re doing things that other people [with bigger budgets] won’t try, because, why would you?

It's so interesting to hear how these effects were done with a constrained budget. It's really an awesome film, you should definitely check it out!

Here's the link to the full interview.

Read more: Take Shelter: Behind the Movie’s Storm-Shelter Tech and Wild VFX - Popular Mechanics 

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