- Universal Pictures
- Brett Ratner
- VFX Supervisor (Method Studios)
- Greg Liegey
- Method Studios
- New York
Tower Heist tells the story of the 99% vs. the 1%. When a group of working-class guys (led by Ben Stiller) discover that their retirement fund has been drained as a result of a Ponzi scheme executed by Wall Street bigwig Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), they decide--with the help of a neighborhood thief (Eddie Murphy)--to rob his penthouse inside a lavish, Trump Tower-style New York building.
Method in New York completed 138 visual effects shots on the film, primarily to extend sets and place the New York skyline outside scenes captured on green screen sound stages. The work was completed at the facility Method shares in New York with Company 3, and by being under the same roof as the DI company and sharing a single color pipeline, the filmmakers were able to maximize efficiency.
PLACING THE STORY IN SPACE AND TIME
Scenes set in Shaw's high-rise apartment were really shot on a stage in Brooklyn with green screen and tracking markers placed outside. Method did a great deal of apartment composites based on the real geography that one would see from the 52nd floor of the Trump International Tower.
In order to make the composites believable, the team created 3D models of the apartment set using artist's recreations and LIDAR scanning technology. For certain background plates, the production shot a group of HDR images of the real skyline, which could then be placed in the background as tiles.
For one particular shot, we move with the would-be thieves as they confront Shaw in a long tracking move out of an elevator and around the corner of the apartment to reveal the vistas outside the windows and Shaw sitting on a couch. Matchmoving to Steadicam, VFX Supe Greg Liegey explains, can be particularly challenging because of the characteristics of movement from point to point when captured by a camera.
Using Nuke, the Method artists adopted a "2½ D" approach to composites, relying on a CG version of New York inside the software for placement reference. Artists also had an accurate CG model of Shaw’s apartment created from blueprints and the LIDAR scan. As such, great attention to detail meant that the scenes looked totally believable.