/News 31.01.24

Alt.vfx builds a vision of the future for Garth Davis’ Foe

Australia’s Alt.vfx has seen glowing praise for their recent work on Garth Davis’ 2023 science fiction thriller Foe, an Australian-U.S. co-production recently released to streaming by Amazon’s MGM Studios.

Starring Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal, the film tells the story of a married couple living in the bleak future of 2065, whose lives hit uncharted new territory after Mescal’s character is conscripted for a mission to colonise space.

Discussions with Alt about the film’s VFX pipeline first took place in July 2021 – at the height of Sydney’s lockdowns – with Director Garth Davis already having amassed a wealth of concept work for the film. “When we came on board it was all systems go,” explains Alt’s VFX Supervisor Jay Hawkins. “Garth had a very clear vision about what he wanted right from the start, so our challenge was to take what was in his head and do our best to recreate that on-screen.”

“There were numerous VFX components that went into making the world this future dystopia. Flying drones, digital doubles, fire effects, CG horses, and many other small details all contributed to expanding the world caught on camera, requiring work on over 230 shots to complete Davis’ vision.”

Jay Hawkins, VFX Supervisor, Alt.vfx

Many of the smaller, digitally added details could slip by completely unnoticed to the untrained eye – practically shot farmland in the film’s opening, for example, had significant digital matte painting by Alt to de-green the environment, while in other scenes fires and failing crops are inserted into the background to hint at a world slowly falling apart around the central action.

Getting the look and feel right were integral to how Alt approached the project, with their lighting team studying the work of Director Garth Davis and DOP Mátyás Erdély, to guide their own visuals.

“It became apparent that our scenes needed to be rich in detail,” explains Hawkins. “From the microscopic iridescence on a beetles’ back, adding cobwebs to the roof of a chicken cage, or bugs flying around a light, these elements helped match the kind of atmosphere that is prevalent in Davis’ existing body of work.”

On the macro side, Alt delivered many of the film’s most visually impressive scenes, from space stations to futuristic vertical farming factories, all created in 3D.

Getting the film’s central space station right was a significant undertaking for Alt, Hawkins explains, with extensive pre-vis required to work out a lighting plan for filming that would emulate the sun orbiting a space station.

Starting with concept designs delivered by the film’s Production Designer, Alt refined and built out 3D models of the space station, which allowed entire scenes to be virtually mapped out during pre-production, before any set construction had taken place.

From those digital sets, virtual filming plans could be transferred to real world equipment using a combination of lidar scanning and robotically controlled cameras, meaning shoots could be meticulously planned months in advance.

Like the space sequence, the interiors of the film’s factory farm also heavily relied on Alt’s ability to pre-visualize entire scenes, with their work helping to inform set and lighting construction.

Working closely with the art department and cinematographer, Alt’s pre-vis work allowed the film’s production teams to calculate the optimal balance of in-camera set construction and VFX scene extension to get the best out of both offerings.

You can watch the full breakdown of Alt’s work on Foe below:

About Foe

Release Date: October 6, 2023

Director: Garth Davis

Writing: Iain Reid, Garth Davis

Production companies: Amazon MGM Studios, Anonymous Content, I Am That, See-Saw Films

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

Contributing Ausfilm Members: Alt.vfx, Docklands Studios Melbourne, Soundfirm, TAG, The Rebel Fleet, VicScreen, XM2