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Based on the popular novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, Divergent tells the tale of a world spit into factions based on human virtues. Our heroine Tris discovers that she does not fit in to any one group and is labeled ‘divergent’ and determined a dangerous individual by the ruling government.

The action takes place 100 years from now and Method Studios were brought onboard as the lead VFX vendor to provide invisible effects in terms of creating a dystopian Chicago, supernatural effects and physically demanding action scenes. Method’s crew was led by visual effects supervisor Matt Dessero. Overall, 381 shots were completed, creating a variety of complex environments, set extensions, digital doubles and CG characters. Jim Berney was the production’s visual effects supervisor, with Greg Baxter producing.

infinite reflections

Method’s most complex sequence takes place in a room seemingly made of mirrors, where Shailene Woodley’s character Tris takes an aptitude test. As Tris walks towards a mirrored wall she notices something is not quite right. As she slowly turns, more and more walls are revealed, all of them mirrored and causing hundreds of her reflections to populate into the distance.

Matt comments, “The photorealism of the Mirror Room sequence was achieved by capturing as many close reflections as possible on film. This was accomplished by setting up six Alexa cameras on a greenscreen stage and tiling the resulting imagery onto cards reflected into the scene. Full CG rotomation of Tris was required for the distant reflections which allowed us to give more complexity to the lighting design.”

“This entire sequence of 36 shots was incredibly challenging both on set and in post, and ultimately very gratifying to see accomplished and one we’re very proud of” summarizes Matt.


Several exterior scenes, including some ‘epic’ aerial shots of the destroyed city were completed by using various techniques from projected matte paintings to full CG. Wind turbines and cabling are added throughout the city and modern day street furniture and signage was meticulously removed. Some shots contain over 500 turbines and are populated with hundreds of digital extras.

For the menacing 130 foot fence that surrounds the city, a 30 foot cement block was shot on location to which Method added 100 foot tall metal towers and guard shacks.  A digital vegetation system was created to replace the flowing blue water in the river and Lake Michigan with trickles of brown water, dry grass and swampland.

Method also created numerous versions of Chicago’s famed elevated train, with CG tracks and futuristic train cars. For one particular action packed sequence where Tris and others arrive at the Dauntless Compound, a variety of brick buildings were created and a huge glass atrium, with digital doubles jumping from train cars to rooftops.

Many of the Method built assets used in the construction of the city were shared with other VFX vendors and included digital doubles, turbines, trees and lake beds.


In addition to the work described above, Method also created effects for Tris’ fear test. This sequence begins with her being attacked by hundreds of birds which were created in 3D. The shots are beautifully lit so that the camera catches the light through their feathers and so it was important to finesse both the models of the birds and their aggressive flight action.

The simulation progresses to an underwater sequence that was shot on a stage in a water tank with a stunt double. Method artists added a spider web of cracks to the glass and augmented the large plates of exploding cracked glass in the wide shots. 


  • Environments
  • Crowd simulation
  • FX
  • Hard surface
  • Compositing
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