Bringing Down the House

Category: In Focus
Method Studios is one of the lead VFX vendors on “White House Down”

Visual effects house Method Studios, a Deluxe Entertainment Services Group company, was one of the lead vendors on Columbia Pictures' "White House Down," which opened recently.

Method's crew was led by Ollie Rankin, visual effects supervisor, and Christopher Anderson, visual effects producer for the team in Vancouver. Overall, they completed 185 shots comprising four sequences. "White House Down" was directed by Roland Emmerich. Volker Engel and Marc Weigert were the production's visual effects supervisors.

"We visited Volker and Marc in their war room in Culver City," recalls Rankin. "The walls were lined with frames from the most challenging shots in the film. The majority of them were marked as belonging to Method, and it's fair to say that re-creating the White House, US Capitol building, and three Black Hawk helicopters challenged our VFX team in the best possible way. Around a fifth of our shots were either fully CG or contained only a small component of practical photography."

"Volker and I were extremely pleased with Method's team and their work," says Weigert. "Their enthusiasm and sense of humor made the experience so much easier than it often is. One of their sequences is the biggest highlight in the film. It's simply awesome. We're all, Roland included, very proud of the outcome."

Method's sequences included the explosions inside and outside of the US Capitol, the collapse of the Capitol's iconic dome, the crashes of three Black Hawk helicopters around and into the White House and its surrounding lawns and fountain, and the interior shots of a helicopter's tail section crashing through several floors of the White House. Methord has accomplished CG simulated destruction and pyro work on recent projects.

The single most challenging shot was the first Black Hawk crash. It features a burning, smoking Black Hawk spiraling over the roof of the White House, slamming into the ground, then crashing into a tree directly in front of camera, breaking apart in a big explosion, before continuing to carve up the ground as it comes to rest. The final comp for this shot used around 150 rendered elements, each with multiple layers.

Since the majority of the film's action takes place in and around the White House grounds, Method shared the CG assets they built with the other 11 vendors located around the world and with very different CG pipelines. A small number of shots required sharing of rendered layers between vendors.

Method Studios President Chris Kubsch says, "Roland Emmerich's action movies contain epic visual effects. Method was one of the lead facilities among the vendors because we've upped our game consistently.  Ollie, Chris and our crew did exemplary work on this one. It was a tough schedule and they didn't miss a beat."

In "White House Down," Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation's government falling into chaos and time running out, it's up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country. The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, written by James Vanderbilt, and produced by Bradley J. Fischer, Harald Kloser, James Vanderbilt, Larry Franco, and Laeta Kalogridis.

Image credit: All photographs © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.



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