Rodeo FX produced 240 visual effects shots for Angelina Jolie’s World War II biopic Unbroken. Partnering again with Industrial Light & Magic, the VFX studio created the air combat between the B24s and the Zero fighter planes, among other sequences.
“Rodeo was a great partner in not only creating the visuals but understanding the sensibility we were looking for,” said Bill George, visual effects supervisor on Unbroken. “For me, it’s the difference between just doing the work and bringing true artistry to it.”
Based on the biography by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken tells the story of war hero Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), whose B24 bomber crashed into the Pacific. Zamperini was captured and spent over two years in Japanese POW camps.
“Our biggest challenge was to make our work imperceptible so the viewers would be carried away by the action and the emotions,” said Sébastien Moreau, VFX executive producer at Rodeo FX. “This is Louie’s story and everything we did had to be a slave to the story. We wanted to be historically accurate in the details and give the whole film a hyper-real look.”
Every shot was designed so the viewers could put themselves into the story, evident in the 154-shot sequence that depicts the bombing of the Japanese-held island of Nauru. Almost every element in the sequence the Super Man bomber, the fleet of B24s, the Zero planes, the airstrip, most of the sky, and the bullets and tracer fire was created as CG imagery.
Rodeo FX built digital models of the B24 using blueprints and historical photos as references. “The airplane asset was a challenge because we only had a limited number of historical photos,” explained Matthew Rouleau, VFX supervisor at Rodeo FX. “We had to invent various details, building the asset from panelling to rivets, and then shooting from every angle and every distance.”
Rodeo FX has a long history of working with ILM, having created visual effects together on such films as Pacific Rim, Terminator, Indiana Jones, Mission Impossible, and Red Tails.
“Pulling this challenging project off with Bill and ILM was fun,” said Rouleau. “He knows what he wants and, because of his vast experience, when we showed him work in progress, he understood where we were going with a shot and could provide guidance efficiently. We are really proud of the work we did on Unbroken this collaboration with ILM is one of our favourites so far.”