Boyle’s movie was not just a well directed, well told story, it also featured some cutting edge special effects to immerse us deeper into the action.
The special effects house responsible for the movie was Union VFX which is based right here in the UK. While Union FX was starting out, they were helped out by Escape Studios which allowed them to create these stunning effects that we saw in the movie.
We were able to chat with one of the men responsible for these amazing special effects shots, Tim Caplan who talks us though how they worked with Boyle to create such a great movie.
127 Hours is out in UK cinemas now.
HeyUGuys: This is most definitely not a Michael Bay film so many of the visual effects can go unnoticed – was there anything you were particularly proud of that people may not realise was an effects shot?
Tim: I think the fact that no-one knows there are over 350 effects shots is the thing to be most proud of. The effects are there to help the audience fully share Aron’s experience, often resulting in spontaneously applauding on Arons release, which is a tribute to their success.The pull out of the canyon after the accident has become the shot most associated with the film. It appears in all trailers and twice in the film itself. I’m not sure people know this is a full CG environment, which is a good thing.
HeyUGuys: Did Danny Boyle give any overarching instructions to you – or offer any notes to you while you were working?
Tim: Yes he would regularly give us feedback. He would come to Union to review the work in our screening room and gave each of the artists direct feedback which helps the creative process enormously. We were also given the freedom to experiment with certain sequences to see how they played out in the cut.
HeyUGuys: In a wider context are you fans of VFX heavy films, or are you more impressed with movies with more subtle effects?
Tim: Tim: I think if the story and the characters engage you in a story then generally I will enjoy it, whether it has a lot of obvious VFX or not.
HeyUGuys: What was the most challenging effects to pull off, and how did you overcome the challenges?
Tim: When Aron turns to dust during the latter stages of his decline was the most time consuming, and involved a lot of work with fluid and cloth simulation. We had a cyberscan of James Franco which helped and also a lidar scan of the canyon set to ensure the fluids interacted correctly with the surroundings. The shots of James Franco swimming at the end posed a few interesting challenges with the arm removals down to the amount of bubbles and no where to hide the joins of the CG arm.
HeyUGuys: The most impressive thing to me was the camera manoeuvres in such a cramped space – with the preservation of the deep canyon surrounds – can you tell us about the process of working with that particular challenge?
Tim: We had very small SI 2k cameras being expertly operated by Anthony and Enrique on custom made rigs, in very crammed spaces. All the canyon shots required some extending when we saw off the set, this was a challenge due to the free reign of the camera and the lack of green screen. All these things stemmed from the restrictions dictated by the landscape Aron was stuck in. It was made clear by Danny Boyle to all of the crew early in the planning stage this was an important part of the process in making this film and there were no easy ways out of problems, but it shows in the final movie I think. If we could have moved walls or fit an entire camera crew into the space we would have lost a lot of the feelings of claustrophobia and isolation.
HeyUGuys: What’s the most important attribute for a visual effect’s artist?
Tim: Enthusiasm, flexibility and pride in his/her work. We had buckets of that with our crew on 127 hours.
HeyUGuys: What films inspired you to turn to VFX?
Tim: Close Encounters of the third kind was always one of my favorites and of course the Star Wars movies in the 70’s and 80’s before they started messing with them.
HeyUGuys: What will you be working on next?
Tim: We are part of creative team planning the ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics. Its a great project to be involved with and we are very excited about it. We have just finished a film called Will. We are also looking forward to some exciting film projects later in the year.
Thanks to Tim for his time. You can check out all our coverage of 127 Hours right here and keep your eyes peeled for it at the upcoming awards ceremonies.