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Retired CIA black-op agents (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich) re-team to find out why Willis's character is suddenly marked for death. Method Vancouver provided 220 shots to the film, including an intense virtual car stunt and several elaborate CGI explosions involving rocket-propelled grenades. The team also created an enormous amount of action-enhancing imagery, including bullet holes in car bodies, walls and glass.


Early on in the film, we find Frank (Willis) driving in a police car with innocent bystander Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) which includes a 15-second shot from inside the car, traveling from the back seat and looking out the front window to the front of the car looking back out the rear window - clearly an impressive camera move to pull off. The car interior was built as a practical set on green screen which is common practice when external imagery is required to be added in post. In this case however, the visual effects team needed to not only incorporate the background plates but deal with the elaborate camera track too.

A camera car with five different cameras, each offset from the next by 35 degrees, was used in capturing a full 180-degree field of view. VFX Supervisor, Randy Goux's team then stitched the five shots together in 3D space to create a full, seamless, 180-degree field of view and then carefully matched this background to the camera move from inside the car.

The next piece of VFX action involved a SUV driven by the villain, Cooper (Karl Urban), plowing into the side of Frank's car, sending it into a violent skid. As the car spins, Frank jumps out, pulls out a gun and starts firing at the SUV. This composite was created using of a clean plate of the street scene, the police car spinning on a turntable on set, and Willis on a green screen jumping into position and firing his gun.

Using Nuke, Method's artists were able to manipulate the position and movement of the car to make the spinning seem more appropriate to the scene. They were also able to refine the shape and appearance of the tires, which in reality weren't touching the ground during the turntable moves, and to give them the more "compressed" look tires would have during such as skid.

RPG versus a bullet

In one spectacular, slow motion shot, Marvin (Malkovich), armed with nothing but a revolver, is confronted by an enemy agent sporting a shoulder mounted rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. Each fires in the other's direction and we see the bullet tear into the grenade and destroy it at close proximity and in ultra slow motion.

In order to create this CGI shot, Method's artists referenced a tremendous amount of slow-motion footage of bullets striking metal. Their study indicated that the metal, rather than tearing apart, actually has fluid, molten properties. The artists made extensive use of  MAYA, especially its cloth and fluid dynamics, to simulate the damage to the flying missile. By modeling the RPG as a "cloth object," they could define and refine its exact tearing properties until it looked believable. Using fluid dynamics to further refine the behavior of the metal, the Method artists made use of Nuke's 3D projection functionality to meld all the animation together.

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