Velvet Buzzsaw, a Netflix film that premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, is a satirical thriller set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce. For this film, Method Studios helped transform various high-end paintings and sculptures into instruments of death, attacking art connoisseurs who participate in unethical business dealings.
Throughout production, the Method team collaborated closely with Director Dan Gilroy and VFX Producer David Feinsilber to develop visually unique and stylized effects to convey the story. Using practical Art Basel-inspired pieces created by a team of traditional artists under the direction of Production Designer Jim Bissell as the starting point, Method artists digitally enhanced the artwork in a variety of ways.
During a pinnacle sequence in the film, Josephine (Zawe Ashton), a young art assistant, is pursued by a gallery of graffiti artwork that drips from the canvas, ultimately claiming her and leaving tattoo-like designs embedded in her skin. Using imagery of dripping paint as reference, Method FX TD Tyler Britton developed a technical particle and fluid simulation approach that allowed the graffiti to be fluid, highly stylized and art-directable. These simulations were then wrapped around the character’s skin, using 3D compositing techniques.
“Dan was a great creative partner, and we had lot of fun experimenting with different ways the graffiti could come to life with an ominous presence that didn’t read cartoonish. Taking the meshed particle sim approach, we were able to maintain a high level of control on the dripping paint and make it feel like a nefarious character,” said Method Studios VFX Supervisor Aidan Fraser. “We also had a blast working on the Hoboman robot. Hoboman’s performance is completely actor-driven, but we enhanced his look with little pistons and gears to seem like a high-tech pile of junk; I may have even told the asset team to make it look like someone threw up on him.”
On set, Hoboman actor Mark Steiger was filmed wearing a mask and robotic suit with greenscreen patches. Method artists led by Animation Supervisor Marc Chu digitally replaced the greenscreen portions, adding various moving components and glowing elements to differentiate Hoboman as a mechanical creation.
For a sequence in an automotive repair shop, Method artists turned a painting of monkeys working on a car into photoreal monkeys that pull a character into the picture. Method artists blended live action and CG to create the illusion that the actor was pulled into the painting by monkeys. Additional effects work by Method included creating environments and set extensions to turn the Los Angeles Convention Center into an art gallery and transform a Hollywood Hills home into a waterfront Miami mansion.
Velvet Buzzsaw is now streaming on Netflix.