- Overture Films
- Matt Reeves
- VFX Supervisor (Method Studios)
- Sean Faden
- VFX Producer (Method Studios)
- Erin Ferguson
- Method Studios
- Los Angeles, New York
Let Me In is a riveting thriller from director Matt Reeves (Director of Cloverfield) about a seemingly innocent young girl, Abby (Actress Chloë Grace Moretz), who is actually a centuries-old vampire thirsty for blood and carnage. Reeves' brief for all of the visual effects was that he wanted a naturalistic feel despite the supernatural content and to avoid the type of fast cutting and pacing that audiences often associate with the horror genre.
VFX Supervisor Sean Faden comments, "Typically VFX shots are about four seconds long, but for Let Me In, we were working with shots 20 or 40 seconds long. The shot where Abby climbs up the side of the hospital was about 800 frames and there's a major shot of a car crash that takes place over more than 1100 frames. This meant that the visuals would be under uninterrupted scrutiny which was certainly challenging”.
FINELY TUNED ANIMATION
Method’s work on the film was a close collaboration between the Los Angeles and New York studios. Matt Hackett was the lead animator out of New York and his team did a lot of iterations of the climbing digital character. Networking between the facilities allowed the LA team and Director to watch the work develop. New York were able to revise and refine the work until it was at that perfect point where the movements had the supernatural yet believable.
The 300-frame shot in which Abby viciously attacks a man in an underground walkway was also staged to happen in a single take. Faden explains, "The Director wanted this attack to have a lot of violence but to not feel choreographed. He didn't want anything to look like a wrestling move or something a stunt person would do. That's a big reason they didn't shoot live-action stunt people, even as a reference." Method's animators researched a wide variety of human and animal behavior—ranging from material they shot themselves of one of the animator's daughter, to stock footage to YouTube clips—to help inspire their character animation.
Method Studios made use of proprietary technologies the company developed during its work on A Nightmare on Elm Street to create the blood and wounds on characters in Let Me In. "CGI blood is something a lot of visual effects supervisors worry about," Faden notes. "If it doesn't track perfectly with the character's face or body, it can very easily look completely fake”. Method’s own Chris Bankoff built what has been nicknamed the 'magnet tracker' for The Foundry's NUKE software, and this elaborate tracking tool was perfect for this feature.
For the animation, Method made use of Autodesk Maya 3D and Side Effects Houdini, especially for creating realistic behavior for fire in scenes such as the car crash. Rendering was via a combination of Chaos Group's V-Ray rendering engine, Pixar's RenderMan and Houdini's built-in rendering engine.
THE FINISHED RESULT
The post production process for Let Me In benefited from the synergy between Method and sister facility Company 3, whose founder and lead colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld was responsible for all film’s color grading. Because the companies' equipment is calibrated identically, the two companies could easily collaborate when it came to the relationship between the VFX and the grading aspects of the process. Reeves could provide notes that both impacted a visual effect and the grading with the confidence that everybody involved in the entire pipeline, through to delivery, was involved.
"Despite - and because of - the challenges," Faden concludes, "Let Me In was a very rewarding film to work on. We were able to build on the assets and pipeline we'd developed for Nightmare and to offer the client the powerful synergy of VFX shops on both coasts and Company 3's talent pool all working in close collaboration.