DNEG Goes Fast! — Show Lead Q&A

Some of our talented leads share their experiences working on F9

The results are in… the latest Fast and Furious film, F9: The Fast Saga is the biggest and most explosive instalment yet. Many of our talented teams around the world worked tirelessly to deliver this larger-than-life show, so we thought it was time we got to know some of the faces behind the work!

We sat down with a few of our talented show leads to get the scoop on F9. Read on for insider insights from Peter Chiang (Production VFX Supervisor), Daniel Rauchwerger (DNEG VFX Supervisor), Carlos Ciudad (Overall VFX Producer), Derek Wentworth (Additional VFX Supervisor), Aline Sudbrack (FX Supervisor) and Michael Grobe (Additional VFX Supervisor).

1. What is your favourite thing about the world of ‘Fast and Furious’?

PC — It’s exciting to follow the Toretto Family through their adventures.

DR — One of my favourite things about F&F is the idea of creating an action movie for the sake of pure entertainment where you push the boundaries of what can be done with a car.

CC — Having had the opportunity to work on such a legendary franchise.

DW — I think Fast and Furious fans appreciate the spectacle and arrive with a healthy expectation to be entertained, surprised and leave the theatre with an overactive adrenal gland. I love that films like these continue to be made, excite audiences and not take themselves too seriously.

MG — Pure over-the-top fun-action and car chases. What else could we want?

AS — The craziness of it all is just really entertaining. And there are of course a lot of useful ‘Family’ quotes to be picked up…

2. How was the experience of working on F9?

PC — This is my second film as VFX Supervisor for Justin, a truly creative and technical experience, challenging you in every way.

DR — Justin Lin is fantastic to work with. He has a clear vision of what he wants to see and what sells the shot. I always enjoyed seeing how he kept tightening the edit and working with VFX in post to make a better and “bigger” sequence.

CC — Working with Peter and Justin is an absolute pleasure. It is not only fun and easy, they have an incredible creative vision that challenged DNEG to go above and beyond. Their working relationship and trust gave Peter the freedom to bring more creative ideas in order to help the storytelling from a VFX perspective, allowing us at DNEG to be involved in the overall filmmaking process.

DW — I’ve known Peter Chiang for over 20 years, and as always, it was a pleasure to work with him and Justin on this instalment. Every film has its challenges, it’s how you tackle those challenges and the character of those you tackle them with that can make the process either enjoyable… or painful! Both Justin and Pete were always approachable, creative and a pleasure to collaborate with.

MG — It is always great to work for a director who has shaped the franchise like no other and a veteran supervisor like Peter, with whom we have delivered so many blockbuster shows.

AS — From an FX point of view the Fast & Furious movies are great fun to work on. There is always something exploding or smashing. We had an incredibly strong team who kept up an amazing standard of quality and professionalism whilst going through lockdown.


3. Which sequence or shot was the most difficult or complicated?

PC — The sequences in the film always push the boundaries, the hardest job is making them feel as believable as possible.

DR — I found the jungle chase to be the most challenging. We created a photoreal environment that had to be specifically designed to accommodate the whole continuous chase. Our “world map” had to be built from start to finish as one huge CG environment that was seamlessly integrated with the real locations it was based on. As we had many plates of real stunts, we had to work very hard to maintain the quality of the real vehicles with the CG ones while making the animations and FX feel natural.

CC — In my opinion, the most complicated was the Tbilisi sequence. It had every possible thing you can imagine… from photo-realistic digi-double work to kilometres of bespoke full-CG environment which needed the development of proprietary tools to achieve the creative requirements from Justin and Peter.

DW — Rather than a complicated sequence or shot, I would have to cite external factors as the greatest difficulty. After F9’s post schedule got completely blindsided by COVID-19, my teams needed to adapt to WFH setups in very short order. Not always the easiest thing to do, especially with some of the more touchy feely creative departments like Animation, Lighting and Comp still in full swing… you want that back & forth with the team or individual. While it was difficult to adjust to that working environment, we all did and I could not be more proud of my team for their work under the circumstances.

MG — We had multiple full CG sequences and shots with complex FX work, environments, digi doubles, so the most difficult part came down to seamlessly integrating the full spectrum of VFX.

AS — The most challenging FX work for us was in the Tbilisi sequence. There were a lot of hero FX moments involving the Armadillo truck which (amongst other things) had magnetically-attracted cars smashing into it, got flipped over, crashed through a building, rolled down hills, was attacked by missiles and collided with a plane mid-air.

4. What was your favourite shot or sequence?

PC — There’s a crane shot that finds Letty and Mia in Tokyo. It’s a very casual shot with a beautiful set extension.

DR — I have a few favourites, full CG shots and some plate-based ones that I am very proud of because no one knows we did that work in VFX, but I think saying which shots will ruin the magic.

CC — Hard to choose. I really like the first establishing shot from the Tbilisi sequence, but I also like the [REDACTED ????] sequence, I think it looks great!

DW — I have to say I liked the challenge of the Edinburgh sequence. It was a mixed bag of VFX shots, from simple set extension to full CG digi-doubles, CG cars, environment extensions and projected array plates, but it all had to flow.

MG — Loved the jungle chase and the [REDACTED ????] sequence.

AS — We had some great shots of a huge building collapsing whilst the cars smashed through it (some trailer only). There was lovely pyro and destruction work done across the board. I also think the rope bridge shots are fun. Who needs gravity if you’ve got family! (I can’t remember if this is an official quote or just picked up from the internet…).

5. Looking back on your experience working on this show, what are you most proud of?

PC — Maintaining the standard and quality of the work despite the pandemic.

DR — I am proud that we managed to deliver this show to the high quality we did during some challenging times. We had to adjust and rethink our approach and made it happen with the help of our amazing global team.

CC — Working with thousands of artists around the world and their endless effort and passion to deliver a project of this size and complexity during the pandemic is what I’m most proud of.

DW — Honestly, I am most proud of the fact that we got it done at all. We faced quite a few roadblocks and sharp turns while dealing with the lockdown. It’s a testament to the willpower of those who love what they do. I am so proud of the individuals I was working with.  Every single one of them.

MG — I am proud of our teams to have delivered almost the entirety of VFX for the movie. Each Fast movie is topping the last one and raising the bar higher.

AS — The huge range of setups and beautiful work created by the FX artists! Fast & Furious 4 was the first movie I ever worked on at DNEG. Now we finished Fast & Furious 9. I fully expect Fast & Furious 20 to be the final movie I’ll be working on before retirement.

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Chandigarh

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