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Framestore CFC behind VFX on ‘V for Vendetta’

‘V for Vendetta’, which opened in the UK and US on March 17 2006, is a new dramatic thriller with a political twist.
Based on the graphic novel illustrated by David Lloyd, the Warner Bros. Pictures/Virtual Studios film is directed by James McTeigue from a screenplay by The Wachowski Brothers. The producers are Joel Silver, Grant Hill, Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Framestore CFC created the film’s DI (digital intermediate).
Much of the VFX work for V for Vendetta was handled by London-based facilities, and Framestore CFC's contribution was chiefly to the grading of the film. The overall grading of the film was created by Colourist Adam Glasman, who said: "We helped provide a consistent look for the film, with much of it looking quite harsh and 'contrasty'. But some sections needed something different. For instance, there's a flashback sequence for which we created a golden sort of look, with lots of diffusion. Similarly, the anti-hero's hideout – the Shadow Gallery – contains many objects and works of art, and we helped bring out the pools of light on these items."
However, there were particular aspects of the postproduction service that required a little bit extra from the Framestore CFC team – aspects that the company was uniquely placed to offer. During the film, the anti-hero's pure white Guy Fawkes mask was always intended to be partly in shadow. This look allowed the filmmakers to use shadow to create expression on the otherwise unchanging masked features. But this stylistic device wasn't always possible to achieve during filming, particularly in fast-moving scenes.
At first, Glasman tried drawing relevant shapes on the mask and move them with the tracking system in the grading software. "Unfortunately, the drawn shapes only looked realistic enough on a few occasions," said Glasman. "So we used a second suite (Framestore CFC has three) specifically to create these shots – as well as another VFX issue which arose. These were supervised by Colourist Adam Inglis."
So the team looked across the company to Senior Compositing Artist Jonathan Fawkner. Fawkner and a small team built a 3D model in Maya from a scan of the real mask and, using boujou and Matchmover, tracked it onto the character. They then lit the mask, rendered out a grayscale matte in RenderMan, and imported that matte into the grading suite. There, with Fawkner sitting in, Adam Inglis applied corrections through the 3D matte to increase the density and create shadows on the filmed mask.
The advantage of this was a process that eliminated the to-ing and fro-ing that would have been the inevitable result of doing the VFX aspects of the work separately.
Framestore CFC uses the Baselight grading system from FilmLight, which provides real-time processing on films scanned at 2K. For V for Vendetta, the DI team began by making a digital version of the feature. Over several weeks in the autumn of 2005, Glasman sat in one grading suite correcting the colour with Cinematographer, Adrian Biddle (who sadly died recently), the director, James McTeigue, and with occasional visits from the Wachowskis. Meanwhile, Inglis was able to feed his VFX-oriented work into the central database.
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