Barney (Sly Stallone), Christmas (Jason Statham) and the team are back for another round in The Expendables 3, the latest entry in the high-octane franchise from director Patrick Hughes. The film, which is distributed by Lionsgate, hits U.S. theaters on August 15.

This time the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill... or so he thought. Now he is making it his mission to end The Expendables, and Barney is forced to bring in a new generation of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. It’s old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables' most personal battle yet.

Prime Focus World provided the opening for the film - a spectacular five-minute VFX sequence in which Barney and his team are helping Doc (Wesley Snipes) escape from a maximum security train on its way to prison. Led by PFW VFX Supervisor Nigel Denton-Howes out of Vancouver, and working closely with Expendables 3 VFX Supervisor Ajoy Mani, the PFW teams in Vancouver and Mumbai worked together to deliver the VFX heavy sequence, which included a CG version of the train, a full CG helicopter, environments, simulated debris and invisible effects.

PFW VFX Supe Nigel Denton-Howes commented that pulling the right team together was key to the success of the project. “The complexity of the shots was extremely high. There were hundreds of layers for each one, and all sorts of effects and skills we needed to make this work. We were fortunate to have an extremely talented and experienced team that worked really well together across locations.”

The CG team worked with Nuke to develop one long shot of the fully CG helicopter which appears throughout the sequence. Once completed the team was able to use portions of the long shot at different angles, rather than developing separate shots for each appearance. This method helped maintain consistency and efficiency within the pipeline.  

The comp team were kept very busy melding live action and CG shots while also adjusting lighting and camera angles to create fluid and photo-real backgrounds to the action, and the FX team contributed the impressive simulations of debris and explosions which gave the scene the energy it needed to bring audiences to the edge of their seats.

“These shots are designed to provide a hugely exciting opening to the film,” said Nigel. “It was a massive amount of work, but it looks fantastic.”

The teams also had the advantage of an already-established working relationship with Ajoy Mani, who Prime Focus World had worked with previously on The Legend of Hercules, which released in January 2014.

“The communication between the client and the Prime Focus team, and internally amongst our own team, was very open and constant,” said PFW VFX Line Producer Mark Van Ee. “You could really see how that improved the dynamic between the teams and with the client.”

Nigel Denton-Howes concluded: “Everyone really rose to the challenge and because of that we were able to deliver an awesome-looking sequence that the clients were really excited about. For me that was a huge success.”


RELEASE: Aug 15, 2014

Director: Patrick Hughes
Studios / Distributors: Lionsgate

VFX Supervisor: Nigel Denton-Howes
Head of Production: Rohan Desai
Line Producer: Mark Van Ee