World War Z is based on the book
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. Directed by Marc Forster and starring Brad Pitt as protagonist Gerry Lane, the story follows a UN worker as he searches the globe for information that can stop the zombie outbreak that is bringing down nations.
Cinesite's main body of work forms the exciting first half of the film, set in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Korea and on a military vessel. In Philadelphia, stuck in a traffic jam with his wife and children, Gerry struggles to get his family to safety as the zombie epidemic attacks the city.
Extensive reference photography was used to turn the sequence, which was filmed in Glasgow, Scotland, into convincing Philadelphia environments. A later action sequence, set at dusk on the roof of a building, was filmed on a set and the stunning, panoramic environment added digitally. Cinesite VFX Supervisor Matt Johnson was on set during principal photography. "I have always particularly enjoyed the challenge of creating invisible effects. Photographic elements were used to create the digital environments and there is cutting edge CGI throughout World War Z. Clearly, there are hundreds of complicated effects, but I believe we've created a natural-looking, documentary like reality, which was always our aim."
Crowds of computer generated zombies, swarming and attacking people were added, with realistic hair, cloth and attacking movements, which would stand up both at a distance and close to camera. The work involved extensive TD input and led to significant developments in Cinesite's raytracing, lighting and shading pipelines.
In several aerial shots, Cinesite's team populated environments including the Benjamin Franklin Bridge with CG traffic, crowds and zombies and turned the calm streets into chaotic apocalyptic scenes, complete with CG helicopters, smoke, fire and destruction. Cinesite also created CG ships, flotillas and ship wake, as well as creating a military camp in Lolworth Cove, Dorset.
In parallel to the visual effects, stereo conversion was completed using Cinesite's bespoke pipeline developed and used previously on John Carter.
Antony Hunt, Managing Director of Cinesite said, "Our team has a reputation for creating world-class digital environments. World War Z presented us with a fantastic opportunity to prove this reputation well founded, while showing our increasing prowess in character animation, an area that we have been developing. We're also very proud of the positive response to our stereo conversion of the visual effects."