/News 13.12.23

Future Associate serve up killer VFX for Equalizer 3

“Sending off the franchise with a bang” was the name of the game for the final installment of The Equalizer trilogy – described by director Antoine Fuqua as a “masterpiece of violence” – and when it came to helping deliver this explosive last chapter, Australian VFX house Future Associate were more than up to the task.

Taking place in a picturesque Italian town, the third Equalizer film sees former marine Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) once again forced to step back from retirement after a run-in with the Italian Mafia. Taking up arms McCall progressively eliminates the organized criminal network, resulting in what are being described as some of the franchise’s most brutal but cathartic character deaths so far.

While Fuqua aimed to capture as much of the film in-camera as possible, the final edit still required over 550 VFX shots to fully bring these action packed scenes to life, with Future Associate working alongside eight other VFX teams to fully realize the director’s vision.

Below are a sample of some of the key scenes that Future Associate delivered to help complete the film.

The Wine Cellar Scene

Opening the movie is a high action, high stakes gunfight which sees McCall single-handedly eliminate an entire criminal syndicate within the first ten minutes of the film. Setting the tone for the rest of the movie, Future Associate’s Alex Barnes explains that this scene gave VFX artists “the opportunity to establish Washinton’s character McCall as a man not to be crossed” making it crucial that this scene wowed the audience.

Featuring a range of gory ends for the scene’s henchmen, the already high-impact edit of the opening sequence was taken to a whole other level by Future Associate’s additions of bullet wounds, blood, gore and wine spraying out of barrels.

Wounds, blood, and wine were added to fight scenes in post (Copyright: Sony Pictures/Columbia)

This work included bringing to life the unforgettable moment when McCall slams his gun into the eye socket of one unlucky enemy, before proceeding to shoot another henchman directly through the first’s head. This squirm-inducing piece of VFX magic was achieved in post by compositing a barrel onto the sawed-off revolver used on set, with the addition of digital blood splatter landing on McCall’s hand and face further helping to immerse the audience in the visceral gore of the scene.

Future Associate’s VFX artists also added a sense of extra movement to the sequence by supplying streams of wine pouring out of surrounding barrels where gunshots landed. This was achieved in Houdini by animating pointed velocity bursts and using them as the force to drive a Flip simulation that emits water particles.

Proxy geometry that mimicked the actors was then added for the particles to collide with, before the particles were given a mesh and rendered. The mesh was textured and lit by the team’s CG generalists to resemble streams of glistening red wine, before being handed to a compositor to re-integrate into the final shot.

Collisions allow for liquids to interact with characters, as seen above

The Van Crash

The movie’s highly choreographed van crash sequence was initially intended by director Antoine Fuqua to be a composite of blue screen plates, however the precise control over characters movements offered by CGI saw the task offered up to Future Associate to recreate digitally.

Their CG team used scans from the film’s set to create a doubles of both the environment and actor, before the texturing, rigging and animating of the character took place.

The shot was fully rounded out by adding small elements such as a cracked windshield, smoke from the van’s hood and blood on the wall.

Skylight Face Replacements

One of the most talked about scenes in the movie features McCall delivering an ultimatum to his enemy by dropping the body of a henchman through his bedroom’s stained glass ceiling. To fully realize this as realistically as possible, film-makers opted to first capture the moment on set using a stunt man wearing face protection, with footage then handed to Future Associate’s CGI team to comp back in realistic facial features.

Scans from on-set were used as a base texture with the asset then being refined by Future Associates’ team. From there, compositors superimposed the CGI face on to the plate footage, spline warping to account for any misalignments and then colour grading to set it in place.

Some small trails of blood rolling down the CGI face were added as a final touch.

See it in action

You can preview the first 10 minutes of The Equalizer 3 below courtesy of Sony Pictures: