"We are really proud of our contribution to Hunger Games: Catching Fire. We truly enjoyed working with VFX sup Janek Sirrs and we are extremely pleased with the final result. This project was definitely in Rodeo FX line of expertise!"− Sébastien Moreau, Rodeo FX President
Rodeo FX can proudly say that they won their battle! Indeed, the Montreal-based studio created 100 visual effects shots for the highest-grossing film released in 2013 at the North American box office: Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Renowned for the exceptional quality of their matte painting work and set extensions, Rodeo FX was solicited to create and enhance Panem’s districts environments during the Victory Tour at the beginning of the movie.
Director Francis Lawrence wanted to personalize the various districts and give them a much more defined identity, showing the main activity that was going on in each of them: agriculture, mining, fishing, textiles, technologies, etc. Based on concepts provided by the art department, Rodeo’s VFX Supervisor François Dumoulin and his team created 2.5D matte paintings, as well as CG vehicles and machines to enhance these rural and austere environments.
The districts were really important in this sequel, as the audience didn’t feel they saw enough of the world in the first instalment. Janek Sirrs, the production VFX supervisor, explains: “Francis wanted to open the world up more so we could see the districts and what goes on in various places. The scale is bigger. For example, in District 12, where Katniss is from, you see more about how they mined things, hinting more of the technology that the capital has sent out to the various districts, whether they are harvest machines or mining machines.” Therefore, Rodeo FX mandate was essential and the watchword was photorealism. “To always keep things feeling authentic, as opposed to more fantasy-based, the digital extensions and dressing were always based on real-world contemporary, or historical reference”, mentions Janek Sirrs. “For example, the digger is based on a real (huge) excavating machine known as a Bagger, and the Appalachian hillsides and associated buildings all referenced photographs of period American mining towns.” With that in mind, Rodeo FX artists, led by Art Director Deak Ferrand, founder of Hatch FX, conceived photorealistic and seamless environments for the various districts. Variations of the set extensions were also generated, as the seasons were changing throughout the film.
As usual, Rodeo FX used their camera to shoot additional elements that were integrated to the various sequences. VFX Director of Photography Robert Bock shot a number of plates, such as skies, rivers, buildings, crowds and atmospheric elements to populate the backgrounds and add some life and realism.
Rodeo FX was also involved in the creation of giant LED screens featured in multiple scenes. The motion graphics department creatively designed and animated the content of the screens, but the biggest challenge was the integration of the screen and graphics in the live plate, because of the focal length and depth of field variations made during the original shooting. An impressive technical achievement, as lens effects are pretty delicate and require extreme precision.
“We are really proud of our contribution to Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, says Rodeo FX President Sébastien Moreau. “We truly enjoyed working with VFX sup Janek Sirrs and we are extremely pleased with the final result. This project was definitely in Rodeo FX line of expertise!”