- Twentieth Century Fox
- John Moore
- VFX Supervisor (Method Studios)
- Randy Goux
- Method Studios
Die Hard films are notorious for showcasing jaw dropping stunts, and A Good Day To Die Hard, the fifth film in the franchise, is no exception. Randy Goux supervised Method’s talented Vancouver team in the production of a number of key sequences based around a helicopter shoot out at a Russian hotel.
Director John Moore’s vision for the hotel was based on the stunning Moscow University. Reference photographs of the university were used by Method’s modeling team who used photogrammetry techniques to build an accurate model of the twenty story building which was surrounded by scaffolding. Pictures from the photography session were used in conjunction with matte paintings to texture the building. The model needed to be very detailed in order to stand up to the close up shots and it’s destruction during the helicopter gun fight.
In addition to the building itself, the Moscow skyline was created for the fully CG sequences.
The live action shoot featured a real Mi-24 helicopter which made for some amazing shots and invaluable reference material for the team responsible for creating the CG replacement used in the majority of the scenes. LIDAR scans of the helicopter were made which assisted the model making procedure. In addition to making the model look as accurate as possible, it was also important to rig and animate the chopper so that its movements blended in seamlessly with the real footage. CG Supervisor Dan Mayer comments, “We were happy to hear that in some cases the director had to ask whether he was looking at the real chopper or the CG one.”
In terms of lighting the helicopter scenes Mayer continues, “Lighting for the exterior buildings and helicopter was done separately to allow us to make individual tweaks to each element. With a few weeks remaining in our schedule we received a change of direction for the lighting in order to enhance the realistic lighting to make the shots look more dramatic. With the tools and artists we had at hand we were able to make these changes quickly, and the process definitely heightened the impact of the sequence”.
In order to firmly seat the viewer in the thick of the action, the VFX team added a number of subtle CG effects along with the big composites. In a process Moore nicknamed ‘stone-washing’, water droplets and dirt on the camera lens were included in the renders to help blend the CGI into the live action shots around them.
One of the most challenging shots for the team was the sequence where McClain and his son leap out of the hotel window. In one long shot, the camera follows John and Jack as they run up the length of the ballroom dodging helicopter gunfire, pans, and then follows them from behind through the smashing window and down forty feet to the scaffolding and garbage shoots.
Multiple passes needed to be composited together (including spider cam footage) and 3D tracking was used to generate match move camera passes. Differences between each plate were then reconciled to create an overriding camera move that was impossible to film on set. Actor takes were blended with stunt takes and animations of the helicopter, digital doubles, tracer fire, building debris and glass. The complexity of the shot meant it was one of the first to be started and the last shot to be delivered. “The director kept pushing for a feeling of vertigo to increase the sense of danger as they leave the window so we played with varying focal depths to enhance the angles. Everyone was thrilled with how it turned out in the end, and that we were able to deliver exactly what the director was looking for”, summaries Mayer.
- Hard surface