Co3, Method, Phosphene contribute to 'Tower Heist'
November 8, 2011

Co3, Method, Phosphene contribute to 'Tower Heist'

NEW YORK — Deluxe’s Company 3 ( and Method Studios ( in NYC made efficient use of their close and collaborative relationship for the post work on Universal Pictures’ new action-comedy  Tower Heist. The film stars Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. 
The visual effects and DI color grading companies, which respectively share the same address on the 11th and 12th floors in New York's Chelsea district, were jointly able to maximize speed and efficiency during the elaborate post phase of the new feature, which was directed by Brett Ratner.

"This is an excellent example of the synergy our companies strive to provide our clients," said Stefan Sonnenfeld, Company 3 president and co-founder, and president of Deluxe Creative Services Group. "It's especially exciting because it demonstrates how we take on complex and challenging feature films in our New York operation."

By completing 138 visual effects shots at the same Manhattan location where Sonnenfeld performed the DI color grading, the filmmakers were able to take advantage of having the creative teams and the media under the same roof and sharing a single color pipeline.  The two groups share a theater and use the same projector for both visual-effects reviews and DI grading.  The close proximity also provides the ability to pass material through common servers, making the process significantly faster.

As visual-effects shots took shape under the direction of Method’s visual effects supervisor Greg Liegey and his team, Sonnenfeld could immediately contribute his input about the color as well. 

"As we developed the visual-effects shots, the filmmakers could review exactly what they would later see in the DI theater,” said Method Studios’ executive vice president Dan Glass.  “If there were questions about how a shot would look during the final grade, we consulted with Stefan, who was right there in the building.  If Stefan wanted to see how a shot was evolving and possibly augment or modify his pre-grade, he did that as well.  This created efficiencies that saved the production time and eliminated any surprises throughout the DI grading process."

Design and visual-effects company Phosphene ( in NYC created numerous CG environments for the film. Creative director/VFX supervisor John Bair headed up the Phosphene team, which augmented and manipulated the physical environment in approximately 70 shots for the film, including creating an elegant swimming pool and deck on the roof of a Manhattan tower, and creating the interior of a three-cab, 60-story elevator shaft. 

For the exterior of The Tower, which in real life is Trump International Hotel & Tower at Columbus Circle, Phosphene created a luxurious outdoor environment for the film’s billionaire, Arthur Shaw. The studio removed the array of satellite dishes and equipment on the existing building, and then added an expansive swimming pool that features a $100 bill design.

One shot with the pool is used in the film’s open. A tight shot of a $100 bill zooms out to reveal the design on the pool’s bottom. As the camera continues to pull up, it is revealed that the pool is on top of a residential tower. Pulling back further, the rooftop disappears into a vast aerial view of Manhattan at night. Phosphene shot the swimmer featured in the pool on set. The building’s rooftop was filmed from a helicopter. The pool and its water are CG and were married to the live action imagery in post to create the open.

The elevator shaft scenes also demanded considerable work from the studio, as characters traveled up and down the 60-story shaft riding atop an elevator cab. Additionally, they climbed ladders and over the grid work in the shaft, all of which required either a complete CG environment or an extension of the environment.

Phosphene used Nuke, 3DS Max with a V-ray rendering engine, and After Effects CS5, along withPCs running Windows 7 64-bit in the execution of the project. The Phosphene team included VFX EP Vivian Connolly and VFX producer Renuka Ballal, as well as VFX associate producer Lea Prainsack, lead CG artist Vance Miller, and lead compositors Thomas Panayiotou and JD Yepes. Representing Heist Productions, LLC were director Brett Ratner, VFX supervisor Mark Russell, VFX producer Ginger Theisen, and VFX coordinators Jessica Wilson-Silas and Bryan Wengroff.