Who says you can't improve the past? Asylum VFX did just that, for JWT New York, handling all post and VFX on a Bing spot that recreated the iconic closing scene from the 1991 hit Thelma & Louise. Working with Speck Gordon through Furlined, Asylum managed every shot in the :60 to make sure it fit the look and feel of the original film and delivered on their clients' precise vision.
The spot proceeds exactly as the original film scene: the outlaw duo sits along the rim of the Grand Canyon in Louise's 1966 Thunderbird convertible, a swarm of squad cars, snipers, and police helicopters lined up behind them, compelling them to floor the gas and take a suicidal run off the cliff edge. This time, however, the stand-in actresses don't agree to a suicide pact, but discuss lunch options as Thelma browses through her smartphone - first on a generic search engine, then on the far-superior Bing - looking for someplace nearby. When they find a three-star restaurant on the opposite rim, they floor it, clearing the canyon and zooming away to safety.
"Though this was not originally planned as a post-heavy spot, every shot ultimately had work done," noted EP Mike Pardee. "We worked closely with the production company and agency at every stage, beginning with pre-production, carefully planning each shot for the optimal on-location execution that would help us accurately recreate the look and feel of the original movie."
Much of the work focused on matching the grain of the original film. To fully sell the look and feel of a theatrical release and to further ensure the proper aesthetic, Asylum delivered the completed spot where it was then printed to film, then ran back through the telecine process. Asylum teamed up on the final color grade with Company 3, Asylum then re-composited the in-phone content to ensure clarity prior to delivery. Compositor Tim Davies tackled many continuity and cleanup tasks in Flame. He doubled the number of police cars by adding several in CG, fixed broken flashing lights in several shots, and made sky replacements (behind hair with no bluescreens), among many other effects.
The image of the Thunderbird soaring over the canyon - the freeze-frame ending of the original movie - provided particular challenges. As the production company could not simply launch the car off the cliff as Director Ridley Scott had done in the original production 20 years ago, Asylum had to generate a realistic looking car from scratch in CG. 3D recon scanned the car prior to shooting and then delivered it to Asylum, which then added an undercarriage, shaders, textures, lighting, and rigging and animation of a renegade hubcap and flapping body panel to match the original film footage. Gunther Schatz created CG dust as a fluid sim to create interaction of the car with the launch point on the cliff. Unable to capture bluescreens of the actresses for compositing into the flying CG car, VFX Supervisor, Zack Tucker shot a few plates of two female Asylum employees with similar hair colors with a 20'x20' bluescreen, a few work lights and a Canon 7D camera, then tracked, stabilized and composited them into the CG car.
Recreating the flying car's backdrop required special efforts as well. Instead of burning through loads of film for a nearly impossible plate shot that would have had to have matched the original movie's angle, lighting, and camera, Tucker acquired hundreds of bracketed stills from several vantage points in a helicopter with a printed frame of the movie on-hand as reference. Matte painter John Hart then built another ultra-high resolution HDR panorama from the stills, allowing him to patch and paint in features like cliff erosion that had changed over two decades. Davies then tracked the panorama to the actual shot of the movie, recreating the exact composition and camera moves.
The scenes of the actual car leaping off the cliff (done ramp to ramp) and landing on the other side (done ramp to ground) also required special attention. Asylum pulled the car and any dust and debris off the plate and composited over stills they had taken of the skies and the far side of the canyon. Taking bracketed high-resolution stills enabled Asylum to build an extremely high resolution panoramic plate of the canyon so that they didn't have to commit to a camera move on set. In compositing, they were then able to pick and choose a perspective and horizon line that best worked with the footage of the car jumping to ensure accurate and pleasing trajectory and composition. Asylum also added additional CG dust to integrate the two elements and maintain continuity with the original movie.