Behind the 'Kingsman' Curtain
March 12, 2015

Behind the 'Kingsman' Curtain

Matthew Vaughan’s big-screen adaptation “The Secret Service” is intriguing fans worldwide, with its dynamic story, action, post work, and look. 

Helping achieve the latter was Goldcrest Post colorist Rob Pizzey, who finished the movie on a Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve. 

Set in the world of British super spies, the film stars Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L Jackson.

Based upon the Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ 2012 comic book, 20th Century Fox’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” tells the story of a super-secret spy organization that recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency's competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

Pizzey worked with director of photography George Richmond on a quintessential British spy thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously and features plenty of fun. “We wanted to create a slick looking film while keeping the blacks full of information and filmic,” reveals Pizzey. “Everything based in the ‘Kingsman’ world had to feel rich and lush while Eggsy's world a little darker, and more oppressive.”

“Having worked with George in the past, I knew that he preferred to setup the look of a film prior to the shoot in order for him to use them during production. For ‘Kingsman,’ we setup around 25 different LUTs and used them on set for monitoring purposes as well as the dailies, ensuring the rushes were already an accurate representation of the final look George was after. We also spent some time with DIT Joshua Callis-Smith to make sure his monitors matched what we were seeing in the DI theatre. The dailies looked so good and balanced a pre grade wasn’t needed in the edit suite to match out the scenes. When it came to the final DI there were no shocks as everybody knew roughly how the film would look. 

DaVinci Resolve was used to tweak the look and isolate small parts of the frame to emphasize the mood George was creating explains the colorist. “During the first two scenes of the film we also had to carry out some anti-ageing using a variety of techniques to make the lead actors appear younger as the scenes took place quite a few years earlier than the rest of the film. We also had to carry out a fair bit of wig line removal and beauty correction throughout. All of those shots were worked on in context using Resolve, all in real-time, giving us the flexibility to adjust and modify each shot up to the last day of grading.

“Our workflow is based on using DaVinci Resolve throughout the full DI process including conforming and final online edition. Using the same system at every stage of the DI process gives us the flexibility to never have to render or commit any shot until they have been fully signed off,” concludes Pizzey. “In particular, the multi layer and compositing capability of the system meant that we were able to grade each part of a comp shot independently, such as the Head Up Display (HUD) shots as well as the complicated vertical wipes, including those used in Valentines factory.” 

Visual Effects

Meanwhile, Fusion Studio was used by VFX house Doc & A Soc to construct some of the most complex visual effects (VFX) in the movie.

Two time BAFTA-nominated visual effects supervisor John Paul Docherty (“Skyfall,” “The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus” and “The Golden Compass”) worked as a vendor on the comic book adaptation, compositing more than a hundred shots in Fusion Studio.

Docherty worked closely with digital matte painter Jim Bowers to create stunning 360-degree environments for key sequences in the film, including a huge hangar filled with a myriad of aircraft and secret service staff, which is Eggsy’s first glimpse into the true scale of the Kingsman organisation.

“The whole shot was an environment created by matte painter Jim Bowers, and we added in various moving elements, including workmen, a plane being towed and a man arc welding at the back, which is a little throwback to Lost in Space,” reveals John. “There is about 10 layers of environment in that shot, and then we ran it through Fusion Studio’s 3D environment. The shot went through an awful lot of changes within Fusion, including re-lighting the whole thing, without needing any additional elements from Jim and then the foregrounds shot was keyed on.”

Compositing for major explosion effects was also carried out in Fusion Studio, with Docherty creating glass shatter effects, together with mattes of building exteriors, which were overlayed on live pyrotechnic footage shot with high speed cameras. “In the explosion sequence we had to deal with four shots filmed with high speed cameras at Levesden on a cold, rainy day. I then had to render this in, together with the glass shattering effects I’d created. We had to deal with multiple image formats and lots of lens distortion, as well as some pretty dramatic color space and resolution differences before we could effectively comp in the office and taxi elements.”

Fusion’s Dimension Optical Flow toolset was also a key element in Docherty’s workflow, particularly when complex respeeding issues had to be overcome. “In one scene we move from the aftermath of an action sequence to a moving taxi with the Kingsman logo flashing on a back seat monitor. This looks like quite a simple shot but the speeds on both sides had been adjusted by the editor, which works really well, however he would throw in cut frames that made the respeeds very complex. Fusion’s Optical Flow did very well handling all of that.”

Conflicting schedules meant that overall visual effects supervisor Steve Begg had to move onto another production, so Docherty was asked to take over as additional visual effects supervisor, splitting the remaining VFX workload with industry legend John Bruno. In this capacity Docherty covered a broad spectrum of shots, ranging from full CG and environmental simulation to cosmetic retouches, fixes and pyro work. “There’s a very long shot where Valentine, played by Samuel L Jackson is revealing his evil plan to Michael Caine’s character, Arthur. The actors were shot on different days with different camera moves and no motion control. The complex workflow involved a load of tracked patches, re-speeds and reanimated elements as well as heavy duty color matching. Fusion handled it with ease,” sums up John.

Photo: Jaap Buitendijk - TM and © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.