The Big Picture
- David Fincher used digital effects in The Killer to achieve a scene that couldn’t be filmed, using reference photos and photogrammetry.
- Wylie Co. VFX was tasked with creating close-up, photoreal digi-double shots of Michael Fassbender riding a scooter in the film.
- Photogrammetry was used to ensure the digital Fassbender matched the speed and details of the live-action shots, seamlessly blending CG and real footage.
A breakdown of the digi-double visual effects used in David Fincher’s The Killer has been released. Posted to X (formerly known as Twitter) by Wylie Co. VFX, the short clip reveals how Fincher managed to use reference photos and photogrammetry to achieve an otherwise impossible-to-film scene. The clip is just one of several break-downs expected to be released in the coming weeks.
In the clip, which clocks in at just under a minute-and-a-half, Wylie Co. VFX CEO Jacob Maymudes explains why digital effects were necessary in the film. “The original plan to shoot these shots on a virtual stage didn’t live up to what Fincher had envisioned,” Maymudes, whose company is known for their work on films and series such as Dune: Part 1 and 2, The Marvels, The Last of Us, and Extraction 2, says. Approached by creators Eric Barba, Peter Mavromates, and Fincher, the company was to “create close-up, photoreal digi-double shots of Michael Fassbender riding a scooter.” These shots would need to “seamlessly cut back-to-back between live-action shots of The Killer on set.” To add extra complexity to the already difficult task, very few reference photos were available, and no HDRIs (High Dynamic Range Image) or “usable array footage” existed.
Maymudes explained that although complex, his team were able to achieve a realistic scene focusing on one detail at a time. To begin with, the team focused on the Killer character himself (Fassbender), creating the fine facial detail beneath his helmet before moving on to cloth simulations. In the clip, it is shown how each layer was created this way, focusing at first on the basic face shape before adding finer details such as pupils and eyelashes, then skin tone. Creating the lighting and checking the Look Dev was also completed once the facial details were finalised.
How Was Photogrammatery Used in The Killer?
Photogrammetry was revealed to be a key component of achieving “the ultimate goal of nobody noticing.” Once the character and scooter were created, the team used the process of creating 3D digital models from overlapping photographs of an object or structure to ensure the digital Fassbender was travelling at the correct speed to match the cascading streetlights he was travelling past. This is most evident in the clip with the close-ups of the lights reflected on his helmet, as well as the wheels and front handlebars of the scooter. It is also clear to see in the way the scooter’s headlamps meet the pavement and hit the buildings and other vehicles, particularly as Fassbender rounds corners. By using photogrammetry, the team were able to successfully cut the “nearly full” high-resolution CG shots into the live-action sequence.
Originally released at the Venice International Film Festival in September before moving to Netflix on November 10, 2023, The Killer is an action-thriller based on Alexis ‘Matz’ Nolent’s graphic novels of the same name. The film focuses on an assassin (Fassbender) who must evade authorities after mistakenly taking out the wrong target. Directed by Fincher, the film stars Fassbender, Arliss Howard, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Sophie Charlotte, Kerry O’Malley, and Sala Baker.
The Killer is currently streaming on Netflix. You can check out the official trailer below:
The Killer (2023)
After a fateful near-miss, an assassin battles his employers, and himself, on an international manhunt he insists isn’t personal.
- Release Date
- November 10, 2023
- David Fincher
- Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, Monique Ganderton
- 118 minutes
- Main Genre
- Action, Adventure, Crime
- andrew kevin walker
Watch on Netflix
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