We delivered 350 shots for the film including CG environments, dust and fluid simulations, CG horses, set extensions, limb removals, prosthetic enhancements and complex rig removals.
One of the main challenges to this project was it’s remote location and although much of the accident site was recreated in a studio in Salt Lake City, Danny Boyle made it clear from the outset that the cramped conditions of the canyon were an essential limitation to filming in order to enhance the feelings of claustrophobia and isolation in the film. There were no walls moved to accommodate the camera crew! We used a LIDAR scan of the actual location which was used alongside some real casts of the canyon to create an exact replica of the accident site, then very small SI 2k cameras on custom made rigs were expertly operated by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak.
Many of these canyon shots required CG set extensions, which were complicated by the fact that the only light source was a rig directly above the set. The light was diffused by white silks so there was no space to accommodate a green screen.
Other challenging shots we faced were turning James Franco into dust in the canyon and the digital removal of his arm in a shot of him swimming. These two shots required fluid and dust simulations that had to interact seamlessly with their surroundings.
Then of course there was the gory bit! We worked closely with the physical effects make- up guys from Alterian who built a prosthetic arm that was used on set. Our work entailed blood addition, tidying up the edges of the silicon, adding more connective tissue and keeping it consistent throughout the sequence. The results were so convincing that perhaps our biggest challenge was sitting through the dailies!