- Francis Lawrence
- VFX Supervisor (Method Studios)
- Stéphane Nazé, Matt Dessero
- VFX Producer (Method Studios)
- Catherine Duncan
- Method Studios
- London, Los Angeles
As fans of Suzanne Collins' science-fiction novels are well aware, ‘Catching Fire’ finds heroine Katniss Everdeen haunted by the horrors she both witnessed and contributed to in the previous film. As if that weren't enough for young Katniss, she's also burdened by the first sparks of a revolution against the oppressive President Snow, and caught in the middle of a love triangle between her childhood sweetheart and fellow Hunger Games survivor Peeta.
The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future and numerous visual effects were required to set the scene and convey the action. Method’s crew was led by VFX supervisors Stéphane Nazé and Matt Dessero. Between our London and LA studios Method completed 155 shots comprising a wide variety of work which required concept art, CG costume enhancements, robotic cameras, a CG train and many complex environment scenes.
“One particularly fun sequence for the artists involved the theater show hosted by the flamboyant character Caesar” notes Stéphane. In this scene Katniss’ elaborate costumes steal the show by busting into flame and growing huge wings. A small section of set and audience was shot on a green screen stage and composited into the theatre design that was taken through a concept process to extend the auditorium and provide dramatic lighting for Katniss's dress transformation. In terms of the crowd, the audience was based on a sprite shoot, with individuals on cards, populated and controlled via a crowd control system developed from Houdini.
The Method artists were tasked with two dress transformations.
For the burning wedding dress transition, the team used a combination of costume plates as base and CG. Firstly the actress’s figure and dress were built in 3D. Incandescent fabric and a flame FX system were then developed and animated so that the burning fragments and embers burnt away the dress. In a dramatic spinning move, the white dress morphs into the Mocking Jay costume.
This dark winged version needed to look realistic in terms of the feathers but also look as it if was a believable costume. The crew referenced birds in flight and feathered costume designs to come up with a movement and structure to fulfill this brief.
District 11 journey
Midway through the film, there is a dramatic moment when Katniss and Peeta travel by train through a tunnel to District 11. A super speed train was created in CG for exterior shots and Method’s team created a fully CG environment for the 70+ shots of the rear view of the observation car. The shots, realized in full 3D, transport the travelers from a lush green landscape to an ominous tunnel where graffiti of the mockingbird logo is lit by flashes, before they exit again to reveal an enormous security wall with fences, soldiers and trucks.
Close up cameras
In a night scene in Victors’ Village, the lead characters are being filmed and broadcast on television. This required Method to create fully CG robotic cameras which they took through concept, modeling and surfacing, with some characteristic animation to lighting.
A number of other environments were enhanced digitally including Victors’ Village which was an extensive 3D build. Two half houses that were built on set needed to be topped up with CG extensions and eight more CG houses were created on either side of the street. The ground was also extended and snow cover and falling flakes added to the scene.
Matt Dessero adds, “We had a number of dramatic environmental builds along with Victors Village and the train scene including a very glamorous 3D digital matte painting for the approach to the Capital Mansion, complete with fountains and exploding fireworks. Production gave us wonderful support and encouragement in their development.”
- Hard surface