BOT VFX Enters the Dark Dimension for Dr. Strange

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Leaping beyond the confines of a comic book panel can be a tricky task, especially when trying to establish a believable world that movie theatre audiences have never seen.  The ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe took on this challenge with 2016’s Dr. Strange.  Directed by Scott Derrickson, it’s not a story of just another city-saving reluctant hero in a cape (actually, in this story even the cape was a hero).  Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular hero, the film is nothing short of a hallucinatory head-trip.

Luma Pictures was responsible for some of the most difficult VFX shots in the film.  Not surprisingly, Vince Cirelli of Luma Pictures was one of the nominees for Best Visual Effects in a Motion Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.  Vince and his team at Luma leaned on BOT’s expertise and capacity to assist with some complicated and painstaking work to help Luma’s compositors seamlessly integrate CG elements into the live action plates.

BOTs were tasked with assisting on two of the most mind-bending parts of the film, totalling over 150 shots: the opening sequence starring Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One) and Mads Mikkelsen (Kaecilius), and the climactic battle between Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) and an uncredited Benedict Cumberbatch playing an other-worldly villain (Dormammu). Over the course of 3 months, a team of over 30 BOTs was led by Srikanth S. on the rotoscopy and paint front and Govardhan A.B. on the matchmove front.

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The most challenging of the BOTs’ tasks was the removal of complicated stunt rigs and wires.  To help create a level of realism in the unreal world of the story, plates were shot with intricate camera moves along with changing lighting conditions.  Using tools like Foundry’s Nuke, the team used a combination of procedural techniques, frame-by-frame manual painting, and a hybrid approach combining the two.  The artists and the Supervisor relied on their experience to judge case by case, shot by shot, which approaches would be most efficient and effective.

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Multiple deadlines and clashing deliveries were met with meticulous planning, scheduling, and collaborating. The team came through in true superhero spirit.

As 3D Supervisor Govardhan A.B. puts it, “The timeline towards the end was very tight. The minutest of details had to be worked on in an extremely short timespan, but the team’s support was phenomenal.”

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BOT’s goal was to deliver exceptional work on time and budget. After successfully racing to the finish line, BOT VFX Executive Producer Hetal Jain gushed, “Working with Vince and his team at Luma is always an enriching experience for BOT; we’re glad to be associated with a film that’s an Oscar nominee.”