Ghost planet
“The world is surrounded by cloud cover, covered in ash, with all signs of human, plant and animal life barely managing to eke out an existence,” says Forker. “The colours of blue and green are usually signs of life and therefore, are rarely seen. Greys and browns dominate with yellows and magenta showing up to represent toxic water and air.”

Using images of devastation and disaster as reference points, the Dive team took the clean plates (above) and created a blighted landscape (below), compositing in separately shot elements such as bodies.

To create this world realistically, Dive had to build and composite VFX elements accurately to match the shot footage, while recreating the look of real-world disaster photography.

“This gave us a great reference to what debris, weathering, and destruction would look like,” notes compositing supervisor Ed Mendez. “This information was helpful when building matte paintings, creating CG, and designing shots.”

To maintain realism, for each shot the team tried to use as much of the film’s plates as possible. They also set up an element shoot, where they captured images of dead and skeletal bodies, weathered US flags, and debris. Dive’s artists were then able to use these to add more realistic devastation throughout the film.

For some working in VFX, a brief demanding realism would be uninspiring – as the fun of creativity is exchanged for the grunt work of technical replication. Digital effects artist Jeremy Fernsler explains that even though Hillcoat wanted ‘invisible visual effects’, he still found ways to be creative.

“As an artist, you want to be able to have a stamp on your work, but you know that the larger effect of what you’re doing is to forward the story and to keep the viewer engaged,” he says. “For myself, I get a lot of satisfaction from solving the problem of how to do what needs to be done. Once that is solved it becomes fun to tweak out the elements to really make them sing.

“Each shot is a new challenge in that respect and each one may need a solution that isn’t immediately apparent – that’s where the creativity comes in,” he continues.