February 28, 2007

Framestore CFC Perfects Hot Fuzz

London - Hot Fuzz is rumored to be the next British film to find runaway success in the US. Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, directed by Wright and starring Pegg and regular associate Nick Frost, the action comedy was released in the UK on February 14; the US debut is scheduled to take place on April 13. Produced by Working Title Films in Association with Big Talk Productions, and with cinematography by Jess Hall, the film gained VFX and a digital intermediate at Framestore CFC.
"I knew within a couple of hours that Framestore CFC was going to be a safe pair of hands for us. Asa (Shoul) completely got the spirit of the film and the looks we wanted, and he and Jess (Hall) worked brilliantly together to create the perfect 'Hollywood' feel for our film,” says Edgar Wright, director.
Wright and Pegg, who previously collaborated on the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, are giving the action-cop genre a British twist by setting it in a sleepy English village. The cast includes Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, and Billie Whitelaw, plus a host of comedy cameos.

Working with director of photography Jess Hall, Framestore CFC senior colorist Asa Shoul graded the main body of the film in three weeks. In parallel with this, in a second suite, colorist Brian Krijgsman worked on opticals.

"I think that the first point to make," says Shoul, "Is that this is not a 'small British film': it's very ambitious technically, both in terms of its looks and style. There are around 5,300 shots in its 111 minutes; an average film would have around 1,750 shots. So we were facing three times the number of shots we would normally deal with. With the amount of one frame cuts in Hot Fuzz, I honestly don't know how a conventional lab could have handled it -- timing it would have been a nightmare. When you add to this the fact that there were more than 250 optical effects and 277 VFX, you can see why this project was special."

Brian Krijgsman worked with editor Chris Dickens in the second of Framestore CFC's three DI suites, adding roughly 60 muzzle flashes, 70 wipe effects, and 20 split screens. For the muzzle flashes, Krijgsman built a database with single frames of selected shots where the flash was relevant for the gun in question. He would then composite this over the new shot, which involved panning and scanning the background plate, hand drawing a shape and mixing it through.

Krijgsman also removed boom reflections from sunglasses and windows and added specific camera shake to around 60 shots, particularly in fight scenes and the car chase. To make things even more complicated, there are scenes where the camera was hand cranked, and the fluctuating light level had to be dynamically graded so that it didn't pop on a cut. On some flashback scenes, Krijgsman added a flicker effect where every few frames we would change the exposure.

"Our philosophy," explains Shoul, "Is that we'll try to do everything we're asked in the DI, pushing our toolset to the limit, rather than just saying to the client that what they are asking for is a VFX. But if it does prove too ambitious we'll ask our Digital Lab compositors to try it. Of course, if all else fails we've always got the mighty Framestore CFC VFX team to fall back on."

Scratches and dust from the 167,000 frames were removed by a team of five in just over a week, and the Digital Lab Compositing team added captions using Shake, and steadied the hands of the church clock using Baselight. All seven reels of the movie were filmed in three days, and an HD master was played out directly from the Baselight to HDD5 for the press previews and cast and crew screening.

Hot Fuzz
A Working Title Films production In Association with Big Talk Productions

Director Edgar Wright
Cinematographer Jess Hall
Producer Tim Bevan, Nira Park
Associate Producer Karen Beever

Colorist Asa Shoul
Additional Colourist Brian Krijgsman
Producer Sarah Micallef
Production Manager Mike Morrison
Conform Editors Charlie Habanananda, Stuart Nippard, Dan Victoire, Annabel Wright
Scanning and Recording Manager Andy Burrow
Scanning and Recording Dan Perry, Jason Burnett, Joe Godfrey, Joseph Hoare, Veronica Marcano
Data Operators David Johnston, Rafiqur Khan , Simon Wessely
Retouch and Restoration Louie Alexander, Adam Hawkes, Aaron Lear, Savneet Nagi, Nick Stanley, O'Dean Thompson
Film Mastering Engineers Kevin Lowery, Yan Jennings
Digital Lab Engineers Jerome Dewhurst, Ian Redmond, Eric D'Souza
Editorial Gavin Round
Executive Producer Jan Hogevold
Head of Digital Lab Ben Baker