Escape Plan 2 & VFX in Chile

Escape Plan 2 is set a few years after Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) has fought his way out of an inescapable prison in the original film.  Breslin has now organized a new top-notch security force. But when one of his team members goes missing, Breslin must return to the hell he once escaped from.

The 96 min action film was directed by Steven C. Miller. FXG was interested to learn that all the vfx work was handled from Santiago, Chile. We don’t hear enough about VFX in places such as South America. Here at FXG we are keen to hear more about the vfx scene in Santiago, Chile’s capital city. Santiago sits in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coastal Range with a population of more than 5.5 million people.

We sat down with Garagevfx’s Tomas Roca, VFX Supervisor on the film. Garagevfx did over 400 shots on the film including full CGI shots and CGI integrated with live action and motion graphics.

1. What tools were primarily used on the show

We used Maya for 3d, Houdini for simulations (Explosions. Fluids, Gases), AE for graphics (there is a lot of HUD design for multiple screens) and NukeX for compositing. We also used Cinema 4D for the title sequence.

We received all the files via hard drive and Aespera, 4K non anamorphic 16 bit DPX files from Efilm (Los Angeles). We used ftrack for internal production coordination and for screenings with Director Steven C Miller and Post producer Michael Urann. Once we received the shots, they were distributed through our server to the different artists.  At certain points there were more than 50 people working on the show.

2. How many shots in total?

More than 400. It was an action movie, with a lot of cuts per scene.

3. Were the droids in the film both practical and digital?

All the Droids were practical, They had a very nice retro futuristic look, that is something very present in the film, but Steven wanted to enhance that with a lot of digital graphic design. For that we worked with our Art Director team, led by David Becker. They created all the graphic concepts and pieces that later were animated in Cinema4d and AE, and finally composed in Nuke.

4. Can you discuss making and filming the ‘VR’/MR’ reward chamber?

This was also very complex, because the camera is very free, and it is all Chroma Key, so that was a very difficult starting point.

Once the technical issues were solved, we spoke with Steven about the real meaning of that environment. As the inmates win their fights they get the chance to have a little and personalized moment of freedom with this VR dome. In it they could draw, read, etc…We created a 360 graphic background that simulated the screens and composed some images of lakes, mountains, flowers, skies, etc…with a digital honeycomb matrix style of interface. This was also part of the art direction process that we designed. All the exterior shots of the honeycomb are all fully CGI.

5. I understand that the project was shot on Arri Mini with Hawk Anamorphic lens ? Did that pose any issues for tracking and comp?

Well, tracking was an issue, because there was not much on set vfx supervision, and even more so with these lenses. The problem was finding where to track. Actually, there was one complex scene wherewe decided to outsource tracking, Matthew Merkovich helped with that and did a great job. We are strong believers in collaborative work, and we have no issues with that.

6. Who was on set  for VFX? 

We got involved in the project once it was already edited. One of the problems was that there was almost no on set vfx supervision. I know that this is very important for Steven, but sometimes producers don’t think about it. Fortunately for our next film with Steven, “ LIVE “ we were able to be on set for the complex scenes.

7. What was the most complex aspects or shots for you on this project?

I can’t say there was one complex shot, the movie has a lot of vfx but nothing out of this world. Our most defining point was to be involved in the project once it was shot, and to handle it completely in Chile.  The most important thing was to be in charge with almost total freedom regarding the look and feel of the vfx world.  Our job I think, was important as we got to enhance all of the sets. We created all the graphic environments, the graphics for the robots, HUDS, etc… It was a very fun job and we really appreciated having Steven and Michael’ s confidence.

Post in Chile

How did Garage VFX get involved?

We were recommended to post producer Michael Urann by Chris Ledoux from Crafty Apes.
We are very grateful to Chris. He is a great guy that we met a couple of times and we recently visited him in their offices in Atlanta. As well as obviously Michael, who trusted us with the project. This was an extremely important project because it was the first time that a Chilean Vfx house has been given the responsibility of the all the vfx work in a Hollywood feature. Actually, thanks to this film, new doors have been opened, mostly in the independent film industry.

I know Garagevfx was founded by Atomica and Garage3d. which are post-production companies in Chile, but when was that?

That was 2 years ago, we have been friends for a long time, and we had the chance to work together in the film Jackie, directed by Pablo Larrain. Both companies have more than 20 years of experience, mostly in the advertising industry. Our goal is to be a relevant player in the vfx industry and we realized that if wanted to make our dream come true, it would be good to join forces. We travel every 2 months to LA and other places in the world – it is good to be a bigger company now and make the effort together.

How big is Garagevfx ?

Garagevfx is in Santiago, Chile. It is actually the company that handles all the Features and series vfx work. We are a small, flexible company that can go from 10 people up to more than 50, if needed. We want to be modern in terms of structure, so we have very good fibre optics/ internet, great machines and world standard software. We strongly believe in outsourcing some tasks such as roto and sometimes complex 3d tracking to specialised post houses, and that reduces the number of people we have to hire in-house. For this movie, we outsourced the roto to India for example. The team at Supernova vfx studios, worked really fast.

Atomica also has comp and 3D teams etc… can you explain how the three companies work together?

GarageVfx is a company that was created by Garage and Atomica, at the beginning, both companies shared their infrastructure and crew with GarageVfx, but after a little romance, we decided to let our children grow independently! Now, Garagevfx handles all the VFX work for the Features and series market with its own team, office, etc… It is a totally individual company, and the parent companies don’t do any vfx for those markets.

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