Going Undercover for Kingsman
October 4, 2017

Going Undercover for Kingsman

Matthew Vaughn's sequel to 2014’s  Kingsman: Secret Service  sees the cast join forces with the Southern charm of the American Statesman in their quest to save the world. With a total of 438 shots across a varied sixteen sequences, Framestore, led by VFX Supervisor Chris Lawrence, was proud to deliver a package of stunning VFX work for  Kingsman: The Golden Circle , bringing ever more outlandish action and intrigue to the spy flick.

The Golden Circle

With a large number of sequences to tackle, Kingsman: The Golden Circle offered a variety of fun challenges for the team. “We worked across 438 shots, but they were short, broken-up pieces of work. Every time we started a new sequence we would face a new challenge,” says Fabio Zangla, CG supervisor.

Reminiscent of the Roger Moore era of James Bond movies, the tone of the film allowed the creative studio to hark back to some old-school techniques and dive into the world of the caper comedy. “Our work comprised old techniques within compositing that we probably hadn’t employed for a long time,” explains Chris Zeh, compositing supervisor. “Since this show was a little bit old-school in its approach, we relearned a couple of techniques from back in the day.” The team used R&D to create lens defects throughout the shots, adding flares and smudges to complete the desired look.


“The opening sequence harkens back to the original James Bond films; it had to be good, snappy, a premonition of things to come,” says Zeh.

The film opens with an exciting, high-speed car chase through the streets of London, which sees three Jaguars chasing Eggsy’s (Taron Egerton) black cab. Stunt supervisor and second unit director Brad Allen was tasked with working through the action beats. “He’s an amazing guy who trained under Jackie Chan, he had a great approach to storytelling through stunts,” says Lawrence. “He would do 20 takes of a stunt, and if it didn’t capture the story beat that he needed, he’d do 20 more until he got it right.” 

The planning and precision of Allen’s direction greatly helped the Framestore team when it came to mapping out their sequences in advance.

An Array rig setup was mounted on the taxi, which stitched together shots to create a 360-degree background, which Framestore could then repurpose as a backplate for shots. However, this took some fine-tuning. “We had seams between the cameras, and perspective-wise, there were issues,” adds Zangla. “These included car tires not sticking to the road, or the car looking too small in shots.”

Framestore had to work out how to bring this Array setup into the team's pipeline. “We didn’t know how to ingest it,” admits Zangla. “We created a small team especially to work on bringing the elements together from within ATD, lighting, and compositing.”

Meanwhile, the crew got busy on two major CG environments builds: Waterloo Place and Hyde Park Corner, lit for a nighttime chase scene. Whole London streets were painstakingly re-created in CG for the sequences based on photogrammetry and a LIDAR survey of the environments during the day.

Subterranean Serpentine

“This was a lot of fun for us to do.... Everything was CG: the taxi and the underwater environment,” says Lawrence.

As Eggsy’s taxi drives into Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, it transforms into a submarine. The wheels of the taxi pop out and turn to face forward, propellers and fins emerge, and some ballast tanks appear. “It was planned really well in the previs, and that helped us along each stage,” explains Zeh. Plates of the taxi going into the water from the location shoot transitioned into full CG as the car went underwater, with live-action Eggsy composited into the taxi. “It’s still set at night, so we worked with the dark, murky water of the lake, which helped with integration,” adds Zangla.

In the last shot of the sequence, the taxi enters the secret Kingsman base, with the team transforming the taxi back into a normal-looking cab. Taron Egerton was in the taxi as the water drained out, in what was quite a dangerous stunt. “As the water level lowered in the live-action, we composited that with the CG taxi. And then as the water drained away, that wiped through to a live-action taxi – and Taron had to hold his breath until all the water drained out,” details Lawrence. “It was quite nerve-racking!”

Alpine Adventures

In an action-packed scene, characters Eggsy and Jack (Pedro Pascal) head to an Italian ski resort in the Alps and board a cable car. Plate material was shot in Courmayeur, but there was a distinct lack of snow, which had to be rectified using matte paintings. The background itself also had to be modified, which meant that up to 95 percent of the environment ended up being re-created in CG. “Mixing real mountains with CG mountains was tricky,” adds Zeh. “The photography of the mountains was pristine, mega clear and full of detail that we had to re-create seamlessly.”

The cable car spins slowly to afford passengers a 360-degree view of the mountainside, before it speeds up, out of control. “This was a FX-heavy sequence’,”says Zangla. “There was snow spray, cable car destruction, and a lot of rendering volumetric snow, which can be a challenge to get the look of it right, in its translucency and plausibility.”

When it came to the action, the camera angles were plotted and then taken through to pre-vis to further dramatize the sequence. “In a few shots, we played the cable car action a bit more violently than we’d been able to do on set,” explains Lawrence. “We had a very short period of time in which to do it, and we were all worried about it, but it just worked – I think because the lighting had been planned, and the previs didn’t get re-edited.”

As well as these large sequences, Framestore covered work across the Alpine building shootout, the Mountain Underground Base, and a number of other diverse scenes. “With this show, we weren’t working within similar shots or environments,”says Zeh. “Every shot was a different piece, problem, and solution, which forced us to look at it with new eyes; but this, of course, made it a great show to work on.”