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The amazing understanding between the directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger during the filming of new ‘Lockout’, was particularly useful in the sophisticated action scenes that combined stunts, combats, wire-work and complicated lighting. “The great thing with James is that we’ve known each other and worked together so long that we have a kind of sixth sense,” says Stephen St. Leger.
“We hardly need to talk to each other on set, especially because we have everything planned and mapped out, and we both love getting involved in every aspect of filmmaking, not just writing and directing. James is incredible. He’s always thinking four or five scenes ahead.”
Their method proved its worth in the spectacular magnetic field scene. Producer Marc Libert explains, “Part of the set had been built and looked like a climbing wall. The duct that takes Snow to the edge of the precipice was quite simply the inside of an old helicopter that the production designer had spotted in an aircraft graveyard. The rest of the set, including the giant rotor blade was green screen that was reworked in post.”
The actors were hanging by wires while James Mather found himself in a cherry picker bucket filming the fight between Guy Pearce and an inmate. “The scene was supervised by Patrick Cauderlier, the king of wires,” adds Marc Libert. He controlled their movements with extreme precision using his special machine, the hydrowinch. The challenge was to use visual effects to lend a realistic aspect and block out the wires”
The previsualization enabled James Mather to work out his lighting plans for each set well in advance. He insisted on using authentic light sources, which offer more freedom when shooting. “It’s also what confers an authentic atmosphere on the movie,” adds Stephen St. Leger. If you use only green screen, there’s a sterile aspect that clashes with the visual style.”
For the combat scenes, the directors absolutely didn’t want to take their inspiration from Asian martial arts movies, but looked to the more realistic approach of films such as ‘Taken’. The producers called on chief stuntman Patrick Cauderlier and fight choreographer Hugo Bariller. “Patrick was the right man for the job because a lot of scenes required wires, and he’s an absolute specialist,” says producer Leila Smith. Among the scenes where his expertise was required are the fight in mid-air, the freefall down to Earth and the motorbike stopping just in front of the subway train.
Made-to-measure visual effects
While picture editing and grading took place in France, the visual effects were produced in Ireland by Windmillane. “We set up a mini visual effects studio with them, hired machines and a big warehouse in an industrial park in Dublin,” recounts Leila Smith. “Then we bought software and recruited freelance technicians.”
Marc Libert adds, “We were very pleased to work with them because back in the day it was U2′s recording studio. The boss is still the same guy, even though the company has grown considerably, moving into film production and post-production. Actually, Steve St. Leger was a camera operator on some of U2′s videos. In Dublin, everybody knows everybody else.”
In all, there are roughly five hundred shots that required visual effects, which took some time for reasons of visual coherence. The visual effects supervisor wanted to work with a small crew better suited to his way of working. “The production times were long,” comments Marc Libert, “but as there were four or five standout scenes to be done, it was better that the same person supervised the modeling, compositing and rendering from beginning to end, rather than dividing the work up.”
Image Courtesy of Lockout