/News 13.12.23

Blackbird VFX wows with three new blockbuster projects

Sydney based studio Blackbird VFX are showcasing their skills through collaborations on a diverse range of productions. Through their work on The Equalizer 3, Dark Harvest and Season 2 of Wolf Like Me, Blackbird have demonstrated their commitment to elevating the art of storytelling through their visual effects work.

The Equalizer 3 (Sony Pictures)

Blackbird were thrilled to be a part of the highly anticipated film, The Equalizer 3, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington. Blackbird were part of a group of 8 VFX houses that helped deliver over 600 VFX shots for the movie, of which more than 550 were used in the final film.

Blackbird’s stand-out work was in the pivotal sequences involving smoke and fire. Their attention to detail resolved continuity issues by seamlessly incorporating blue flares, smoke, fire and dust to enhance the atmosphere and drama.

A significant challenge in one scene also saw Blackbird tasked with enhancing close-up shots of a brutal neck injury, pictured above.

Blackbird were pivotal in the completion of fifty new VFX shots that were the result of a sequence shot just six weeks before the picture’s release. Blackbird had just two weeks to push through shots that included falling glass and a CG human.

James McQuaide – VFX Producer/VFX Supervisor

Blackbird’s success on their initial scenes saw the team tasked with additional work re-creating a vast stained glass window being crashed through, all the way down to shattering shards dispersing through the air – with only two weeks to complete the entire scene.

Despite the tight turnaround, the production team were so impressed with the final result that they opted to use the CG version of the shots over the real filmed footage, in a testament to the quality of Blackbird’s work.

Wolf Like Me, Season 2 (Made Up Stories)

The comedy-drama series Wolf Like Me, produced by Made Up Stories, is a boy-meets-girl story with a werewolf twist. For Season 2 of the series, Blackbird were tasked with creating a CG sequence featuring a baby in the womb, collaborating closely with the show’s creator, Abe Forsythe. Given a broad brief, Blackbird had the freedom to explore Season 1’s themes of the cosmos and Season 2’s focus on the protagonist’s pregnancy, through not only a visual context, but also within a narrative context. Inspired by these themes, they portrayed the journey of a red blood cell within the foetus, starting from conception to circulation. 

The sequence was initially developed from concept style frames, storyboarding, and animatics, and brought to life by Blackbird’s CG team. The aim was to capture the contrast between a mother nourishing her child and her innate fear of birthing a ‘monster’. Blackbird’s VFX artists used tools including Houdini and Maya, and meticulously crafted the bloodstream shots and the baby’s portrayal, referencing real in-utero development stages for accuracy. Fine details, including skin folds and subtle movements, were sculpted with precision using ZBrush and Maya. Rendered with realistic skin shaders, the final layers were readied for the compositing team where the shots were pieced together, culminating in the vivid depiction of the unborn baby.

Blackbird also handled various set extensions beyond this sequence. This included a scene of Mary in labour in a speeding ambulance amidst traffic and road works. The ambulance was shot in studio against bluescreen with interactive lighting, Blackbird then composited separately shot exterior plates into the windows using extensive 3d tracks and layout to ensure a seamless match of the studio and exterior plates. 

In another scene, the team connected the kitchen and basement sets for the confrontation between ‘wolf Mary’ and Gary.

“It was a very fluid creative process with the show’s director, Abe. It’s always exciting when we have the opportunity to be engaged within the narrative context of the show as well as the visual context.”

VFX Supervisor, Nick Ponzoni

Dark Harvest (MGM)

Recently released and featuring work from Blackbird, is the American fantasy horror film Dark Harvest, based on the 2006 novel by Norman Partridge and directed by David Slade. The team at Blackbird skillfully crafted various set extensions, notably a glowing full-moon present in multiple shots, enhancing the mood and drama of the film. Released in time for Halloween, it looks set to become a cult classic.