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San Andreas

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Earthquakes are a fact of life in California and the threat of the next ‘big one’ looms large, so when Method Studios was called upon to digitally destroy Los Angeles for action-packed disaster film “San Andreas,” it hit close to home. To create the large-scale destruction, our Los Angeles and Vancouver facilities teamed up to deliver 247 complex effects shots – including fully CG environments, simulated wreckage, and atmospheric effects. VFX Supervisors Nordin Rahhali and Bruce Woloshyn, and VFX Producers Crys Forsyth-Smith and Brett Dowler, led Method’s talented teams and kept the intense action grounded in realism.

BUILDING UP TO THE BIG ONE


To ensure smooth integration with CG environments in post-production, Nordin spent two months down under on the Brisbane, Australia set of “San Andreas,” and also supervised select shots in Los Angeles. Separately, Method artists set upon downtown LA with a Lidar scanner, capturing extensive data from street level and rooftops, and collecting aerial shots to use as photography and lighting references in order to accurately recreate the thriving metropolis.

DOWNTOWN DESTRUCTION


Spoiler alert: things do not end well for Los Angeles and Method was responsible for the film’s thrilling sequence during which an earthquake decimates the city, with lead actress Carla Gugino barely managing to escape. At the heart of the sequence is a continuous three-minute shot tracking Gugino as she fights her way through a shaking mid-rise building toward the roof, where her husband (played by Dwayne Johnson) is waiting with a rescue helicopter. The shot was comprised of 4,500 frames and was carefully pre-visualized by director Brad Peyton. Method used Lidar scan data to build and destroy LA in CG. Everything from buildings to trees needed to respond realistically to the shaking so these detailed scans were crucial to believability. Finally, Method stitched together the CG and live action plates, then added atmospheric effects as the buildings topple.

LEVELING THE BAY


In addition to decimating Los Angeles, Method also played a key role in leveling San Francisco, sharing assets, cameras, models, and textures with Scanline and Hydraulx. While Scanline demolished the Bay Bridge in one particular scene, Method completed all foreground destruction of the city itself. Method also contributed helicopter composites and CG crowds throughout.

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE


Summarizing working on the project, Nordin notes, “Working on San Andreas was a huge challenge in terms of the scale and the complexity of what was needed. We had full CG environments where everything from high rises to trees are falling and everything needed to look photo-real and behave realistically, even down to the type and behavior of the smoke clouds."

"It's almost ironic the amount of effort that went into building the cityscape in 3D only to tear it down; but it was a pleasure to see our attention to detail result in frighteningly realistic scenes that had audiences gripping their seats."


Keywords

  • Environments
  • FX
  • Hard surface
  • Compositing
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