Action star Liam Neeson, the man with ‘a very particular set of skills’, is back in Non-Stop, a ‘keep ‘em guessing ‘til the end’ plane-based suspense thriller played out at 40,000 feet. Reunited with director Jaume Collet-Serra and producer Joel Silver following the success of their 2011 hit Unknown, Neeson is joined on this non-stop flight from New York to London by Golden Globe winner Julianne Moore and Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery.
Prime Focus World was the exclusive VFX partner on the movie, which was produced by Silver Pictures for distribution in the US by Universal Pictures.
Neeson plays Bill Marks, a US Air Marshall who is on a routine transatlantic flight when he starts to receive a series of threatening text messages, demanding that $150 million is transferred into a secret bank account. Unless Marks can organize the money, he is told, a passenger on the flight will be killed every 20 minutes.
Having previously delivered VFX for Unknown, Prime Focus World was delighted to be working again with Jaume Collet-Serra and Joel Silver, as the exclusive VFX partner on Non-Stop. The project was headed-up out of the PFW Vancouver studio by VFX Supervisor Randy Goux and VFX Producer Justin Gladden, with support provided by the Mumbai facility. PFW delivered 474 shots for Non-Stop, including full CG exteriors of the plane, military jets and environments. Vancouver handled most of the CG shots and all of the exteriors, with Mumbai delivering the interior green screen window and monitor replacements.
“Initially, the intention was to contain all the action inside the plane, creating a very claustrophobic feel,” explained Prime Focus World VFX Producer Justin Gladden. “As the project developed, the exterior shots of the plane were added, and we were charged with the art direction of these sequences, setting the look and the aesthetics of the exteriors in close consultation with the director.”
In addition to the exterior shots of the aircraft itself, the Vancouver team was also required to create the CG environment outside the plane, a couple of military fighter jets that are dispatched to escort it, and an especially challenging sequence in which there is an explosion on-board the aircraft.
“This was a complicated sequence,” said PFW VFX Supervisor Randy Goux. “There is an explosion on the plane, an engine blows out, and the landing gear gets blown away, making for a very bumpy landing. There was lots of destruction, debris, fire and smoke to create - but this is what we do for a living. The real challenge was ensuring that the cinematography on the exterior CG shots felt natural and real.”
Randy and the team spent hours analyzing in-air footage of planes, focusing on how the footage was shot and working to replicate this in full CG: choosing the correct lenses and framing; replicating the stabilization of the shots; selecting the right shaders; and perfecting the lighting. The team also drew on their experience of creating the full CG fighter jets for White House Down, to assist in the process.
Another challenging sequence undertaken by the team was an 11,000 frame, seven and a half minute continuous shot that sees the camera move through the economy section of the plane, past the flight attendants, through business and first class, into the cockpit and back through the cabins again. To the viewer, it is one long, graceful, smooth establishing shot.
“We stitched that shot together from multiple takes,” explained Randy. “At one point the camera goes out of the window and flies along the side of the plane, before flying back in, requiring integration of the live action of the interior and the full CG of the exterior. We knew this was going to be a big shot – not just in terms of the length, but also in terms of marrying up the various different takes, and the render times involved. We gave it to one of our senior compositors, and he did an amazing job in bringing the shot together.”
The Mumbai VFX team was also kept very busy on Non-Stop, delivering the roto, tracking and clean-up prep work for the movie, and comping all the green-screen window and monitor replacements. The Indian team, led by 2D Supervisor Bharat Raj De and VFX Production Head Shome Dasgupta, contributed 300 of the 474 VFX shots PFW delivered for the movie.
“Non-Stop is an amazing, thrilling ride that will keep you glued to your seat and guessing about the outcome right till the very end,” said PFW Founder and Global CEO Namit Malhotra. “But for Prime Focus World it is even more than this. Non-Stop is the first of many movies that we will be working on in partnership with Silver Pictures, and I look forward with great anticipation to some very exciting projects to come.”
RELEASE: February 28, 2014
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Producers: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona, Joel Silver
Studio / Distributor: Universal Pictures
PFW Scope of Work: VFX, 474 shots -
PFW Lead Facility: Vancouver
PFW Associate Team: Mumbai
VFX Supervisor: Randy Goux
VFX Producer: Justin Gladden
Associate VFX Supervisor: Fredrik Sundqvist
Lead Compositors: Juan David Lopez, David Rose
VFX Coordinators: Cat Counsell, Mark Van Ee
VFX Executive Producer: Rohan Desai
VFX Creative Director: Merzin Tavaria
VFX Production Head: Shome Dasgupta
2D Supervisor: Bharat Raj De
VFX Line Producer: Vivek Pundir
VFX Executive Producer: Stephen Mascarenhas