‘First Man’ gave us the opportunity to truly redefine what shooting ‘in camera’ really means.
As the primary VFX vendor for ‘First Man’ DNEG was tasked to create multiple rendered sequences in prep for use on a giant 60 foot wide by 35 foot tall curved 180 degree LED screen. The LED wall was the best option to get the clarity and brightness and capture as much in-camera as possible. It allowed us to shoot certain space and in-flight elements with our CG content to fit seamlessly within the boundaries of a film being shot 16mm & 35mm. While the astronauts were in the capsules, the X-15, Gemini or Apollo, they were mounted on 6 axis gimbals and shot in the foreground of the LED screen. In the VFX world we generally focus on creating visuals for single shots, most lasting between 5-15 seconds. The director, Damien Chazelle, did not want to be limited in this way. We had to create content for entire sequences, some lasting 10,000 frames. This allowed Damien to work with actors on any portion at any given time. In the beginning, we began rendering front and side views to the screen but quickly realised creating 360 spherical images gave us the most flexibility on the day, as we could rotate it in any direction. This was a challenging amount of work to complete before shooting even began.
Post shoot, we then had a large range of work across a variety of formats, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm IMAX which had to be ‘invisible’ VFX work that fit within the truly ‘out of this world’ look of the movie. This ranged from some wardrobe touchups through to environment enhancements, as well as some painstaking work restoring and even enhancing some of the original 1960-70’s archival footage. This also included some intensive FX work for some of the Apollo launch shots. All of this technically challenging work was run from DNEG Vancouver, with support from talented artists at our other offices around the globe.