In this first episode of a new series called 'Close Up', Prime Focus World's Jon Thum and Neil Miller show us how they brought the sprawling metropolis of Mega-City One to life for Dredd 3D. From the first concept art sketches, through the development of this gritty, violent city, 'The Foundations of Mega-City One' offers an inside track on the role of the VFX house in developing concepts for big movies.

Prime Focus World has delivered over 650 stereo VFX shots for DNA Films’ forthcoming comic-book reboot ‘Dredd’, starring Karl Urban as the eponymous anti-hero and written by Alex Garland in collaboration with the original comic-book creators. The film is produced by DNA Films, directed by Pete Travis and distributed by Lionsgate (US) and Entertainment (UK).

Through a unique creative partnership, Prime Focus implemented a script-to-screen production model, engaging closely with the filmmakers at a very early stage in the process. In pre-production this involved conceptual planning, visual effects and production design, as well as stereo pre-visualisation in preparation for the native stereo shoot. The collaboration was led by Prime Focus’ Oscar-winning VFX Supervisor Jon Thum (The Matrix), who oversaw the visual effects for the entire movie.

During post-production, 70 Prime Focus artists in London produced the 650 stereo VFX shots over a 24 week VFX production period, delivering around 90% of the visual effects in the movie.

Key VFX sequences delivered by Prime Focus include the epic establishing shots of Mega-City One, and extensive environment work, including the development of the main ‘Peach Trees’ mega-block and its massive 200 storey atrium (a CG creation in which much of the action in the film occurs). There were also many CG FX heavy sequences, the biggest of which was the ‘76th Floor Destruction’ scene, which sees Dredd and his rookie sidekick Anderson battle it out with drug-lord Ma-Ma and her ruthless clan. Live-action on-set FX were hugely extended with CG FX to create a fully-fledged firefight and the annihilation of an entire floor.

Other standout VFX sequences include the drug-induced POV shots mimicking the effect of the illegal drug ‘Slo-Mo’, which has users experience reality at a fraction of its normal speed. The beautiful high-speed stereo photography, shot on Phantom cameras, was embellished with CG elements by the Prime Focus team, including the final ‘Slo-Mo’ scene at the end of the movie, which required complex compositing of CG FX, green-screen elements and digital doubles inside a fully CG environment.

“I’m realy proud to have been so heavily involved in this movie, and of the work that Prime Focus has delivered,” said Jon Thum, VFX Supervisor. “The VFX work is superlative, and the success of this is down to us being so closely involved. ‘Dredd’ is an amazing cinematic experience.”

Much of the concept art for ‘Dredd’ was created by Prime Focus Art Director Neil Miller. He was also involved with the project from the beginning, and worked closely with Alex Garland, Pete Travis and the film’s Production Designer Mark Digby to define the look of ‘Dredd’ and Mega-City One.

“Getting involved during the concept stages was hugely advantageous as we could design the look very much with the VFX in mind,” said Neil Miller, Art Director. “From my point of view, having the chance to work so closely with the creative team to understand the vision for the project was particularly rewarding.”

The work, including 84 3D converted shots and a full convergence pass, was handled under one roof at Prime Focus World’s Central London facility. The layout and infrastructure of the former grain warehouse in Bucknall Street is designed to allow the VFX and 3D conversion teams to work alongside each other, and to enable client feedback to be incorporated instantly on-site through an established, highly efficient pipeline.

“Prime Focus World really delivered on ‘Dredd’,” concluded Co-Executive Producer Michael Elson. “There aren’t many facilities out there that could have given us the quality of work, depth of creative talent, scope of services, and value we received from Prime Focus.”

RELEASE: September 21, 2012

Director: Pete Travis
Producers: Alex Garland, Andrew MacDonald, Allon Reich
Studio / Distributor: Lionsgate

PFW Supervisor: Jon Thum
PFW Producer: Tim Keene
PFW Scope of Work: VFX, 650 shots / 3D Conversion, 84 shots
Lead Partner
PFW Lead Facility: London


Dredd PFW Breakdown reel

In the second of four 'Close Up' episodes exploring Dredd 3D, Prime Focus World's Jon Thum details just how the film's striking, standout, super slow-motion stereo 3D sequences were constructed.

In the third of four 'Close Up' episodes exploring our work on Dredd 3D, Prime Focus World's Jon Thum talks about the use of pre-viz on Dredd, and explains how pre-viz becomes so important when shooting in 3D.

Prime Focus World VFX Supervisor Jon Thum talks us through the VFX breakdowns for Dredd 3D, giving an inside look at the VFX process.