Vfx Legion Crafts Effects For ‘Black Christmas,’ A Holiday Horror Film
Led by VFX Supervisor James David Hattin, VFX Legion’s global team of artists created all of the visual effects for ‘Black Christmas,’ the second remake of the classic holiday horror film. Blumhouse Productions returned to the LA/B.C.-based company for a range of digital shots - from blanketing the exterior scenes with CG snow to adding visual effects that augment the ominous look of the supernatural villain.
‘Black Christmas’ is the story of a group of sorority girls who are being stalked and killed off, one-by-one, by a masked stranger during Christmas break. Refusing to be victims, coeds Riley Stone (Imogen Poots) and her Mu Kappa Epsilon sisters decide to fight back and put an end to the rampage of terror.
Shot in New Zealand, The University of Otago was transformed into the fictitious Hawthorn College in small-town America. Snow, an essential element of the film’s seasonal setting, was fabricated during the production but fell short of the authentic look director Sophia Takal envisioned. VFX Legion met the challenge, digitally transforming the exterior footage into a realistic winter-white environment.
“We created snowflakes with variations in size and animated them to fall in a very art directed way to match the practical snow,” says Hattin. “Our artists fabricated high-resolution, 3D snowflakes using Nuke’s advanced particle system. The color of the flakes was adjusted to compensate for lighter and darker backgrounds.”
“Our biggest challenge was finding a look for the snow that blended with the practical snow to create seamless final shots with a real-world feel,” adds Hattin.
VFX Legion’s matte painters added 3D snow on trees, front yards, streets, the mountainous background, and other elements. Some of the details dealt with digitally included adding the textures left by footprints and creating natural-looking accumulations of snow.
Early on, it was clear that the human-looking supernatural villain needed a more demonic look, while his overall appearance remained grounded in the real world. Legion added a subtle reddish glow to the pupils of the killer’s eyes. Developed by the director and editor, the effect gave the antagonist a distinctly evil look, clearly differentiating him from the general population.
A variety of CG elements augmented the original footage. The masked man shoots a computer-generated arrow that virtually flies across a room as the girls flee. The arrow was designed based on reference photos using Maya, which was also used to light and animate the look and velocity of the projectile. Tracking artist Ruy Delgado matched the stunt arrow’s trajectory with the camera moves.
The reign of terror ends when a girl pushes over an ancient statue containing the ‘black goo’ that is the source of the villain’s other-world powers. Using Maya’s Bifrost Legion’s artists simulated the liquid sludge splashing out of the head of the effigy as it shatters into pieces.
"Over the years, Blumhouse Productions has called on Legion to create the visual effects for a long roster of thrillers,” says Hattin. "Our team appreciates the opportunity to work in the horror film genre. We really enjoy coming up with innovative solutions that meet the challenge of enhancing the realism of scary scenarios.”
“For ‘Black Christmas,’ Legion assembled a team tailored to film’s specific needs from our global network of highly skilled artists,” says VFX Executive Producer, Reid Burns. “Our ability to quickly ramp up Legion’s collective of talent enabled us to deliver a large number of high-quality visual effects that the movie required and meet its tight deadline.”
Feature Film: Black Christmas
Client: Blumhouse Productions
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Slasher Film
Release Date: Friday, December 13, 2019
Producer: Jason Blum
Producers: Ben Cosgrove, Adam Hendricks
Executive Producers: Greg Gilreath, Zac Locke, Adam Hendricks
Director: Sophia Takal
Screenplay: Sophia Takal, April Wolfe
Editor: Jeff Betancourt
First Assistant Editor: Jason Sacharoff
Cinematographer: Mark Schwartzbard
Line Producer: Chloe Smith
VISUAL EFFECTS By: VFX Legion LA/B.C.
Visual Effects Supervisor: James David Hattin
CG Supervisor: Rommel S. Calderon
Visual Effects Producer: Nate Smalley
Visual Effects Executive Producer: Reid Burns
Visual Effects Project Manager: Dylan Yastremski
Visual Effects Coordinator: Matthew Noren
Tracking Artists: Ruy Delgado
Tracking Artist: Gerald Feather
Digital Matte Painter: Dave Tipper
3D Artist: Blake Anderson
Compositors: Suzette Barnett
H Haden Hammond
Allan Torp Jensen
Matthew T. Lynn
John R. McConnell
Pipeline Development: Brandon Rachal
Bookkeeping: Michaela O’Brien