Beyond Practical: Visual Effects
VFX supervisor Barba previously teamed with Kosinski on TRON: Legacy. He viewed his goal on Oblivion to make Kosinski's vision come to life in post so that the audience will believe the Bubbleship can fly, the Skytower rests 3,000 feet in the air on a platform, and that drones rocket by at warp speeds to chase down scavengers. Says Henderson: "There are huge VFX components that go into making a film of this scale. Nevertheless, Joe wanted to capture as much practically on set during filming as he could. We have a good balance of the two and they feed the story, so VFX are not just there to be a spectacle. Rather, they are plot-driven."
The director reflects upon the world his VFX team helped to create: "From a visual effects standpoint, our biggest challenge was making sure that the digital elements in this movie integrate into the live-action photography seamlessly, because so much of this movie is in camera. We never wanted any of the digital elements to stick out. So when the drones are flying around, they had to feel like they were captured in camera on set."
VFX producer and co-producer Steve Gaub came on board Oblivion early on to work on previsualization shots with Kosinski. Gaub: "We had a whole previsualization team doing early animations. The more we could lock into that, then the earlier on we could set the template of what we wanted to be practical photography versus what needed to be computer-generated, and what we wanted to be half and half."
The VFX team chronicled everything that was happening on set so that they would have the necessary tools with which to work during postproduction (when they created the computer-generated imagery). Through the use of still references, they compiled as much data as possible to record what space and lighting -- as well as intricate scene details -- were used on each day of shooting.
Approximately 400 computer artists at VFX venues Digital Domain and Pixomondo relied upon the Oblivion on-set VFX team for incredibly specific texture and light data so that 3D models of everything from the set to the Bubbleship to the cast could be created for the VFX shots. Shadows proved to be a particular challenge on this film as most of the action takes place outdoors under bright sunlight... while computer creations need to match the real world flawlessly.
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