Prime Focus World is delighted to have delivered 140 VFX shots, DI and a wide range of cameras for Yellow. Following from the critical successes of The Notebook, John Q, and My Sister's Keeper, director Nick Cassavetes returns with a comedy-drama centered on Mary Holmes (Heather Wahlquist), a young substitute teacher with a drug habit and a myriad of other problems.
"Prime Focus World is honored to have played an important part in bringing Nick Cassavetes’ Yellow to the big screen," said Prime Focus Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director, Merzin Tavaria. "The team delivered a variety of VFX shots for the movie, ranging from green screen composites, seamless crowd replication and CG dynamic simulations through to complex head and face replacements, including realistic skin and fur."
Apart from the visual effects sequences the team also created two 2D animation sequences that were integrated with the live action footage. "The film's entire post-production was handled at our Mumbai facility," continued Merzin. "This project really showcases the superb creative and technical talent we have in India, and demonstrates our commitment to excelling within the independent film genre."
Michael Grobe, Senior VFX Supervisor for Prime Focus World in Mumbai, spearheaded the creative work between Prime Focus World's production facilities in Mumbai and Vancouver and brought together more than 35 artists for the project, which was managed by Head of VFX Production in India, Shome Dasgupta. PFW VFX Supervisor Jon Cowley provided on-set VFX supervision from Vancouver.
"The facial replacements in the dance sequence, in which we had to replace the faces of 20 dancers, were a real challenge," said Michael. "There was no facial performance capture data, so we had to create the data manually, using traditional match moving and keyframe animation to match shape rigs to the video reference footage of the performances."
"Another challenge was the dinner sequence," Michael continued, "which involved extensive head extensions and replacements to convey the drug visions of the main character, who sees her family turn into a bunch of animals. Technically, we needed to seamlessly match fur to live action prosthetics, and creatively we had to find the balance between realistic integration and visualization of the drug visions."
The film's climactic sequence, which sees Mary ride her bike through a suburban area before it transforms into a 60s-style animated cartoon, was designed entirely in-house at Prime Focus: from concept to execution. "We'd originally planned to give the sequence to 'candyland' style, but during production we changed the look and feel into a something more like a 60’s style animated 'toonland'," said Michael. "The sequence is extremely visual, moving from live action into fully 2D animated shots, and it proved to be one of my favourites - it was great fun to venture into a traditional 2D animated world."
The Torpedo sequence, in which a girl falls from a crumbling high-rise building, also required extensive VFX work. "The actor was shot against green screen and we added CG elements in post; the challenge was to get the geometry and disruption correct, so that it matched both the speed of the camera and the CG simulated elements."
"The project was unique from the outset and, whilst drawn to it creatively, the complexity of fitting the pieces of the story together went well beyond the narrative structure," concluded Merzin. "It proved to be a worthy challenge for all involved and we couldn’t have pulled it off without the great talent of the Mumbai and Vancouver facilities. It was a fluid production pipeline, not only between our Prime Focus teams, but with the entire production. We had this constant free dialogue about new ideas and designs to help the story. Our ideas and designs for effects and 2D animation were welcomed, which made it a gratifying and inspiring process."
Yellow was one of the first 'Western' shows to be almost entirely executed out of Prime Focus India. As the vast majority of work was carried out in India, and with the filmmakers based in North America, a strong communication channel between Nick Cassavetes and the Prime Focus team was essential. Prime Focus World's VFX Supervisor Michael Grobe and Executive Producer Rohan Desai were assigned to the production team to ensure that this happened.
Talking of the experience, Rohan Desai said, "The sequences delivered for Yellow all had unusual technical and creative requirements. Taking these into consideration, we carefully customized our 'Global Digital Pipeline' to allow us to respond quickly to changes. From the pre-production stage, I interacted with Nick and made sure we had the right team in place. In addition to the VFX requirements, we also provided DI services and supplied a wide range of cameras from India for the movie. Colorist Eric Alvarado from Prime Focus New York was flown down to our LA office, and liaised closely with the Nick and the cameraman Jeff Cutter to set the overall palette for the movie. As the main point of contact between Prime Focus, Director Nick Cassavetes and Producer Manu Kumaram, from supplying cameras to onset supervision to VFX execution to DI and final deliverables, I am delighted to say that the work looks absolutely stunning - evidence of the outstanding abilities of the teams we have across the globe."
RELEASE: Festival circuit, 2012
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Producers: Manu Kumaran, Chris Hanley, Jordan Gertner and Chuck Pacheco
Studio / Distributor: ICM Partners
PFW Supervisor: Michael Grobe
PFW Producer: Shome Dasgupta
PFW Scope of Work: VFX, 151 shots
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PFW Lead Facility: Mumbai