Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Monkeys, Lightning and Blood Rain
A sense of discovery was also sought after in every aspect of the film's visuals, from its innovative IMAX photography to its photorealistic digital effects. It began with the work of Belgian cinematographer Jo Willems (Hard Candy), whose camera plunges into Katniss' increasingly defiant point of view - and who also brought groundbreaking IMAX camerawork into the mix. Says Jon Kilik of Willems' imagery: "Jo worked seamlessly with Francis to achieve the film's fantastic scale and scope. His creative use of IMAX cameras also takes you directly into the experience of the arena, where the verticality of the trees and the lush foliage become something not only very beautiful, but very immediate and intense."

Francis Lawrence was absolutely thrilled with what the IMAX cameras were able to capture - especially in the instant when Katniss first arrives inside the unexpected arena. "The IMAX photography makes for the most incredible moment as we see through Katniss' eyes this gorgeous, threatening new world for the first time. We are all awestruck along with her."

To oversee the specialized cameras, the filmmakers brought in IMAX technician Doug Lavender. Lavender explains that the production used the cameras in innovative ways. "As the characters compete in this massive game of high stakes, we used cable cams, cranes and hand-held work that had the IMAX camera flying through the forest -- and a lot of that is quite unique. Very few directors have used hand-held IMAX cameras, so this was a first. It's so very impactful when you get to see the actors going through these huge emotions in this huge world really close up."

Lawrence admits that the notoriously cumbersome cameras added extra challenges to the film - but he say it was all worth it. "I had been warned that the cameras are bigger, bulkier, and more awkward to hand hold - but we figured out ways to do exactly what we wanted. After you've spent days sweating, getting bitten by mosquitoes, lugging heavy equipment through the jungle and waiting for the long turnaround time of the cameras, when you see the dailies and see how unbelievably stunning it is… that is pretty satisfying."

On the visual effects side, a dedicated team of artists formed under the aegis of visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs, whose recent work includes The Avengers, Iron Man 2 and I Am Legend with Lawrence. Sirrs, who would be in charge of some 1000 effects shots for the film, notes that the director had a very clear mandate in mind: to seamlessly integrate the effects into the story. "Francis tends toward a very naturalistic style so it was important that the effects didn't draw unwarranted attention. The goal was really not to regard the effects-heavy sequences any differently from the 'regular' sequences," he explains. "Creating a totally believable, realistic world was paramount to the project. If you're asking the audience to buy into an alternate reality then the last thing you want them to be paying attention to is the environment, rather than the actors' performances. If the audience doesn't question how the visual effects work then we know we've done our job properly."

Sirrs and Lawrence began by talking about the feeling inside the arena. "There was a very definite idea about how the jungle should feel: oppressively hot and humid, which was based upon photographic research of jungles from around the world, particularly Costa Rica. Between takes the actors were being constantly spritzed down with water, and smoke was pumped through the locations to create the illusion of moisture/mist hanging in the air to add to the realism."

Both the real jungle where they shot in Hawaii and the digital jungle the team forged on computers posed challenges. "Carrying equipment through dense undergrowth is very tiring, especially when the ground turns into swamp at the first instance of rain. And then there were the bugs -- in hindsight, I wish I had bought shares in the company that makes DEET," laughs Sirrs.

Meanwhile, to create the Cornucopia, Sirrs' team began generating a fully digital, photorealistic jungle complete with bodies of water. "Every piece of foliage that you see there - all the palm trees, banyan trees, smaller bushes, and so on - are completely rendered 3D dimensional models, with all the individual leaves blowing in the wind to add a sense of life-like movement," he explains. "We had so many pieces of computer-generated foliage that it wasn't possible to actually store them all - so we effectively had to digitally 're-plant' them each time a frame was rendered."

Another 400-plus digital shots were overseen by Double Negative (The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Rush) and visual effects supervisor Adrian de Wet. Their work includes the Avenue of the Tributes sequence - for which the road, bleachers, buildings, fountains, Presidential Circle and the whole layout of the Capitol behind the parading Tributes had to be conceived, modeled, textured, lit and rendered. Double Negative also created the fire effect on Katniss and Peeta's outfits at President Snow's party. In addition, their work was integral to the arena environment, including such hazards as the Tidal Wave, the attacking Jabberjays and the poison fog.

The fog was particularly complicated. "There was much discussion back and forth as to how the fog should behave," says de Wet. "The brief was that it should be like an unstoppable wave moving through the jungle. One of the challenges here was the sequence was shot without any fog, and then we had to add the fog while still keeping continuity of speed and direction, allowing the fog to interact with the jungle vegetation, all at IMAX resolution."

One of the most exhilarating visual effects missions was to recreate the monkey attack from Suzanne Collins's book, in which dozens of brightly colored primates suddenly emerge like magic and begin to menace and imperil Peeta. This task fell to Guy Williams' at WETA Digital, known for his work on Avatar, X-Men First Class and The Avengers, for which he received an Oscar nomination. The monkeys would involve just 80 effects shots, but Williams knew that Francis Lawrence had grand ambitions for the sequence.

"Francis wanted it to feel like a very real moment, as Katniss, Peeta and Finnick face an extreme threat to their survival," says Williams. "His idea was to build the scene so the audience starts out fascinated by the monkeys, only to get more and more anxious as it becomes clear how dangerous they are. From the beginning, he had it all beautifully choreographed. And from our first conversations, Francis spoke a directorial language of emotion, which made the challenge really fun."

Williams and his team next dove into monkey business, immersing themselves in primatology to learn more about how monkeys behave and move. They based the film's creatures on two species closely related to baboons: Drills, an endangered species found in African forests and known for their powerful builds and fearsome fangs; and Mandrills, the largest monkey species of all, famed for their extremely colorful, almost painted-looking faces. "We basically fused the more ferociously primal body of a Drill with the garish coloring of the Mandrill," Williams explains. "Everything started from real monkeys, and our fantastic animation supervisor, Daniel Barrett, found tons and tons of references from zoo so we had a large reference library of movements from which to find just the right twitches and mannerisms."

He continues: "From there on out it became more of an art - the art of never being content and pushing closer and closer to absolutely naturalistic motion. We were lucky to have Janek pushing us the whole time. He has a way of making people rise to the challenges and do better and better."

To help the actors feel the presence of the monkeys on set, the visual effects team used cardboard cutouts and small stunt performers as stand-ins. "I'm sure there are some outtakes that have me doing my best monkey impersonations as well!" quips Sirrs.

A variety of technical issues would rear their heads - particularly because the monkeys bound through water, adding the significant complication of wet fur into the digital mix - but throughout, Williams says that his team was inspired by the final results. "When you are able to create something that feels so real to people, that is extremely fulfilling," he concludes. PANEM COUTURE

With fashion so much a part of Panem's universe, Francis Lawrence was committed to pushing Catching Fire's costumes to edgy extremes - from the wildly lavish celebutantes in the Capitol to the tattered sackcloth of the workers in the districts. To achieve this, he turned to one of the most exciting designers working in film right now: Trish Summerville, who recently tackled another pop culture phenomenon, dressing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo's Lisbeth Salander.

Summerville previously collaborated with Lawrence on several music videos, and she came to Catching Fire full of ideas. She explains: "Francis and I started off discussing making the look a little darker and also a bit more chic, a bit more fashion-forward, while still keeping that sense of the weird and perverse that clearly marks the Capitol."

She especially went to the hilt with a line-up of couture dresses for Effie Trinket, whose style grows increasingly fabulous as she grows increasingly frantic with the approach of the Quarter Quell Games. Summerville worked with such leading design houses as Alexander McQueen - whose mesmerizingly structural, pink butterfly dress Effie dons to a stunningly eerie effect on the "Victor's Tour" -- to create pieces that define the term avant-garde. "I wanted to have a tribute to McQueen, because I've been really inspired by his fashion and his structural pieces," Summerville explains. "Elizabeth really let us torture her for some of these pieces. Her shoes are insane, especially a couple pairs of Alexander McQueen shoes that kept her on the ball of her foot at all times. But she endured it all for the beauty of it, so it goes right along with Effie's character."

Summerville also pulled in other design houses, including men's designer Juun.J whose outfits adorn Haymitch and Peeta, and Jean Paul Gaultier, with pieces from that line adorning the chic Capitol "in crowd" at President Snow's ever-so-fashionable Capitol party.

But the pièce de rèsistance would be Katniss' knockout of a wedding dress, designed by Cinna to transform in the most daring way possible. Summerville worked with designer Tex Saverio, a 28 year-old Indonesian who has been on the fast track to fashion's rarified elite, to create something that would capture both the romance and the darkness of the moment Katniss reveals her dress in the run-up to the Games. "The dress as seen in the film is definitely a work of art," Summerville muses.

Saverio wanted to go to the very limit for Katniss Everdeen. "We wanted something even edgier and more avant-garde so we used the metallic upper frame that has qualities of a flame and then the skirt is full of ribbons and lace. The materials symbolize all the contradictions in Katniss," he explains.

In addition to working with couture pieces, Summerville created many of her own originals. She explains some of her conceptions for the characters: "Peeta wears a lot of green because we learn that is Katniss' favorite color so subconsciously, he's often in green to woo her. Gale is in more subdued, muted tones as a miner, but when he's with Katniss he is a bit more pulled together because he's trying to make an impression. Cinna, like most great stylists, is not really very flashy, but we wanted him to be very cool, in a more demure, deep way, so he wears a lot of dark tones. For Haymitch, we used a lot of natural fibers and textural fabrics and I wanted to clean him up a bit, so that he's now a little more chic and streamlined but still slightly off in that Haymitch fashion."

Says Jon Kilik of the breadth of her work: "She was involved in every thread of every costume for every character and even every extra. It was all hand-made or hand-selected by Trish herself -- every detail, every layer, and it's just an amazing job she's done to help create this world."

While real-world street trends and runway shows inspired some of Summerville's designs, her designs for Catching Fire are in turn now heating up the fashion world - with Lionsgate and online fashion and beauty retailer Net-A-Porter partnering on a luxury clothing line under the label "Capital Couture by Trish Summerville." This collection of 16 ready-to-wear pieces will be available exclusively on Net-A-Porter.com, referencing such key elements from the film as laser-cut leather, sleek silhouettes and glamorous evening wear.

Adding further touches to Summerville's work are the memorable faces created by returning makeup designer Ve Neill (The Amazing Spider-Man). "The breadth of Ve's knowledge and experience are truly brought to bear in this movie because so many enormous demands were placed on her, whether the blisters from the poison fog, or the blood rain, or the whipping of Gale, all the way to the decadence of the Capitol," Nina Jacobson says. "She's fluent in all of it, whether it's special effects makeup, sheer glamour, or the understated but sexy and contemporary feel of someone like Cinna."

Neill was thrilled to have this chance to use the full gamut of her skills. "This movie was a makeup artist's dream," she states. "We have blood, we have fantasy, and we have Effie, who is a whole other entity unto herself."

Hair and wig designer Linda Flowers felt similarly about the specialness of the project. "This is one of the only movies I've done where the hair is such an important part of the storytelling. And how often do you get to be a part of creating looks that people love copying and replicating?"

Neill and Flowers often riffed off each other, especially when it came to Effie. "The first time we see Effie, she looks like a giant snowflake, which is pretty fabulous," Neill says. "Linda Flowers made this really amazing white snow encrusted wig. I followed suit and made her face almost white. She shows up like a beacon of winter."

The director was very pleased with how costumes, makeup and hair all merged into a look that is 100% Panem. "We all worked together - Trish, Ve, Linda and their entire team - to create the look of the Capitol, so that every person you see has their own individual style," says Lawrence. "At the same time it's all tied into a unified new palette - with paler, almost ghostly makeup and geometrical looks. It was a tricky business and took an army of people to accomplish it."

Next Production Note Section

TOP

Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.
Contact CinemaReview.com

2014 37,  All Rights Reserved.

Google

Find:  HELP!

Google