Framestore & Cinesite Contribute VFX to Latest Bond Film
October 27, 2021

Framestore & Cinesite Contribute VFX to Latest Bond Film

Framestore delivered nearly 400 shots for the latest action-packedJames Bond installment  No Time to Die. In addition, Cinesite added additional touches to the long-awaited feature. (Top image from Cinesite.)
From car chases to dramatic snow-covered environments, there was nowhere for the Framestore team to hide when adding CG elements into a shot. They received detailed references and scans to help them conjure everything from forests, icy lakes and mountainous landscapes. Says Jonathan Fawkner, VFX Supervisor: “It’s hugely satisfying to be able to put something into a shot that is so invisible that you know when you’ve done a good job because no one can see it.”

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Maniac, True Detective), No Time to Die continues Bond’s longstanding tradition of jaw-dropping setpieces, dazzling cinematography and practical filmmaking. “I really enjoyed working with Cary”, says Fawkner. “With his background as a Director of Photography he has a very strong aesthetic sense.”

The opening sequence required bespoke environmental R&D work. Shot on location in Norway in spring against a dramatic sunset, the team needed to replicate the look and feel of the shoot plates whilst changing the season to snow-covered winter. Says Benjamin Loch, VFX Supervisor, “The decision to base the look of the sequence on one of the sunset plates really paid off and the results provided the artists with a balanced image-based reference of all elements with the lighting composition of every shot baked in.. ”

For one very stylish sequence set in London, the studio created a vista of the skyline, as well as a new glass building in the heart of the city. “They wanted a very specific beautiful view of the city and they wanted it to be sunset.” adds Fawkner. To get the position of the sun where they wanted it, the crew shot the scene at sunrise although additional details created a believable sunset, including animating traffic and adding trains, car headlights and the surrounding architectural lights.

Despite the major stunts being shot practically, ensuring continuity was a huge part of Framestore’s supporting role, with one of the adrenaline-filled car chases requiring the choreographing of a Land Rover, three Toyota Landcruisers, motorbikes and a helicopter, Fawkner says “other than dressing in higher mountains, the majority of the work was adding continuity, moving CG vehicles and stunt ramps from the shots and then replacing terrain.”

Working on No Time To Die was a dream project for Framestore. Says Loch, “the franchise was always a firm favorite growing up, and my pick of choice was always one from the Bond ‘VHS’ collection.”

Around 170 people worked on the film’s VFX at Framestore, as well as our friends at Company 3, who provided colour. A separate team of 40 Framestore artists worked solely on the opening titles, Daniel Craig's last gunbarrel sequence and the Billie Eilish music video for the title track. Starting with GoldenEye in 1995, No Time To Die marks the seventh time the creative studio has worked closely with Daniel Kleinman to create a Bond title sequence, having fostered a partnership with the director that’s brought in multiple industry awards.

In addition, Cinesite (London) delivered several visual effects sequences for No Time To Die as well.

The feature is the ninth James Bond film for which Cinesite has contributed visual effects — the first being Goldeneye in 1996. The studio’s London and Montreal facilities both contributed, with London leading the way. The production VFX supervisor was Charlie Noble, with Framestore supervisor Jonathan Fawkner directly overseeing Cinesite’s work. Production VFX producer was Mara Bryan. 

Cinesite’s main body of work involved the creation of a weaponized gas, seen briefly in the domestic trailer for the film. At a Spectre venue in Cuba, Bond and CIA agent Paloma attend a party, not realizing they are walking into a trap. Gas, looking strangely iridescent and beautiful, descends upon the socializing crowd. In a sequence of arresting shots, Bond is caught standing in the beam of a spotlight, in the middle of a circle of partygoers. 

“Mist had been generated on-set for a few of the shots, which we needed to match as closely as possible,” explains Cinesite VFX supervisor, Salvador Zalvidea. “Getting the iridescent quality right was very important, the way light is separated into a rainbow spectrum. Our technical approach was to devise a system where we added the look entirely at the compositing stage, without having to render simulations, which would have been render-heavy and complicated. The end result is seamless and incidental to the action. That’s always our aim for the visual effects in Bond films, to enhance but never to distract the audience from the action.” 

In the same sequence, Cinesite’s visual effects team created other subtle effects, like compositing environments, disseminating Spectre logos throughout. Other invisible visual effects contributed by Cinesite’s team include various environments, an exciting underwater action sequence and a challenging “long shot.” The latter required the creation of a two-minute-long single shot of Bond chasing down bad guys in a gun battle up a staircase and through a building. Filmed in several separate passes, the studio stitched the shots together seamlessly and added muzzle flashes, blood hits, CG fire, smoke and CG environments for some areas shots against a greenscreen.