Led by visual effects supervisor James David Hattin, VFX Legion's team delivered a challenging mix of shots for Half Brothers, director Luke Greenfield's new film for Focus Features. A fully remote company since its inception, Legion efficiently created a mix of complex photorealistic effects for the comedic road trip.
The film follows the story of a Mexican executive and a free-spirited American who learn from their ailing father that they are half-brothers. Rather than answer his sons' questions, the patriarch maps out a road trip tracing his event-filled migration from Mexico to the United States. The route is laden with clues that ultimately reveal the secrets of their father's mysterious past.
The production was just shy a few shots when the pandemic brought shooting to a halt. The lockdown prevented the crew from getting back out to shoot the plates necessary for the movie's penultimate scene. VFX Legion digitally created the sequence's pivotal elements, delivering a variety of computer-generated effects that blend seamlessly with the footage.
Digital augmenting practical and stock footage that follows the brothers' cross-country trek presented VFX Legion with some interesting creative and technical challenges. Artists removed local signage, trees, and other elements that didn't fit with locations.
Computer graphics supervisor Rommel S. Calderon modeled and textured a mix of computer-generated street signs integrated into original footage of the New Jersey Turnpike. The digital elements transformed the shots, creating the look of a freeway cutting through South Texas as the brothers head north on the road in an old Mercedes-Benz wagon.
The immigrant father mapped out a route leading the siblings to pieces of a puzzle revealing the dramatic events that altered the course of his family's life. While driving, the brothers spot the building that holds the final clues to the old man's past. Provided with photographs of a Spanish-style mission, Legion's team built a CG model and recreated the structure. Artists integrated the building and other CG elements into the stock footage creating the view as seen by the brothers from the moving car.
The environment was designed and built entirely in CG. Calderon constructed a replica of the mission in 3D with photorealistic detail using Autodesk's Maya. Tracking artist Ruy Delgado synced the movement of the vehicle's virtual view as it drove along the freeway, adjusting camera angles and pushing the shots to blend the effects invisibly within each frame.
"During the past eight years, Legion's work on films and episodic series, season after season, has earned us a reputation as a company that consistently delivers large shot counts of complex, high-end visual effects on tight deadlines," said Hattin. "'Half Brothers' provided us with an opportunity to work with the film's incredible team and apply the scope of our remote company's capabilities and the expertise of our collective of artists and veteran management team to creating effects that exceeded expectations."
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