Chimney Uses DaVinci for Collaboration on ‘The Dead Don’t Die’
Blackmagic Design has announced that VFX company Chimney relied on DaVinci Resolve Studio to collaborate in real time across its New York, NY, and Gothenburg, Sweden, locations while delivering visual effects (VFX) for the hit zombie movie “The Dead Don’t Die.” The international post production company also used Fusion Studio for select VFX work on the film.
“The Dead Don’t Die” follows the peaceful town of Centerville as it finds itself in a battle against the undead as zombies begin to rise from their graves. Directed by Jim Jarmusch, the zombie comedy stars Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Iggy pop (pictured, Tom Waits and more.
The Chimney team produced more than 300 VFX shots for the film, with work happening simultaneously at its New York and Gothenburg locations. With Jarmusch and the film’s DP, Frederick Elmes, located in New York, Chimney needed to be able to collaborate in real time across locations so both teams could work closely with the filmmakers to discuss and implement changes during the VFX process.
“Since this film was Jim’s first VFX heavy project, we wanted to ensure that he felt comfortable and connected to the team throughout the entire process,” explained Chimney’s VFX Supervisor Sam O’Hare.
Chimney turned to DaVinci Resolve Studio’s collaboration capabilities for its ability to review EXR sequences in real time.
“We needed the teams on each continent to be able to look at the same footage and discuss it live on the phone in real time. With DaVinci Resolve Studio, we were able to share the EXR sequences from each studio, load them into a project which was then shared and relinked, and run a remote session so we could screen all the full quality EXRs in real time in both places. Jim and Fred were able to watch everything and comment directly from New York while the team in Gothenburg, Andreas Hylander (VFX Producer, Chimney Gothenburg) and Alex Hansson (VFX Supervisor, Haymaker), could see the exact frame that was being discussed,” said O’Hare.
“Since this film was mostly shot during the day and later graded to look like night, the challenge was to deliver VFX that would look clear and visible even after such an extensive grade. Traditional workflows with LUTs didn’t cut it, as the grade was dialed back several stops with a multitude of masks and keys. However, since we were using DaVinci Resolve Studio on the original EXRs straight from VFX, we could quickly adjust the grade to make an informed decision on whether we should redo the VFX shot or if we could fix it in the grade” said Hylander.
O’Hare added, “Using DaVinci Resolve Studio, we were also able to use the latest color information from the grade, so the look was always up to date, and with the original footage loaded underneath, we could easily compare it to the plate if needed.”
Jarmusch found the workflow really eased the review process, “Working with collaborators in other places across the world is almost always a challenge, especially when it comes to visual elements like effects. However, on ‘The Dead Don’t Die,’ through the use of DaVinci Resolve Studio at Chimney, we were able to share and discuss ideas immediately and seamlessly with our cohorts in Sweden while we remained in New York. A modern marvel!”
Since Chimney is a global network of facilities spanning 11 cities across the globe, collaboration is at the core of its projects. “This sort of work always relies on good communication, as well as rapid data transfer. We have a data backbone that enables us to send uncompressed sequences very quickly, so we could have the footage available in both places. That system is really a key to collaborating with our offices around the globe,” noted O’Hare.
“We regularly use DaVinci Resolve Studio’s remote grading feature to run color sessions across different locations, but this project was the first time we’ve implemented it in this way on the VFX side of things,” explained O’Hare. “Being able to view all the footage back at full resolution and quality, with the latest color changes applied, simultaneously in two places that are 3,768 miles apart, was a game changer. It meant that the communication between the director, DP and remote VFX team was seamless and immediate, which helped ensure a smooth collaboration throughout the entire process. As a global company with projects constantly running across different studios, that level of collaboration is crucial to our success.”
O’Hare and his team also used Fusion Studio for select VFX work on the film, including one scene that featured a character using a pair of old, damaged binoculars. “The character, Hermit Bob, lives out in the woods, and Jim wanted to get across that there would be layers of grime on the lenses whenever we looked through them, as well as some cracks to internal elements of the glass,” explained O’Hare.
“We used a variety of tools in Fusion Studio to achieve the look, including displacements and offsets fed through rotoscoped shapes to imitate the broken glass, treated imagery of dirt and grime to layer onto the view, and various mattes and keys feeding into rays to build internal reflections in the black areas outside the classic two circle cutout of binoculars. The displacements were designed to react to the movement in each shot as looking through broken glass would, so some shots had movement from the camera, while for others we built matching movement in Fusion Studio using nested perturb modifiers in the transform node,” concluded O’Hare.