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Interview from Fxguide with the chimney pot crew involved in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Invisible effects play a key role in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, set in the early 1970s. For the film, Framestore completed several subtle enhancements (read about their invisible effects work for the film here), as did The Chimney Pot in Stockholm, whose major shot was the creation of the MI:6 ‘Circus’ archive. Here, spy Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) is tasked with surreptitiously gathering a file from a rack of bookshelves deep inside MI:6. The file then travels by elevator through the MI:6 building.
– Above: watch a breakdown of The Chimney Pot’s vfx for ‘Tinker Tailor’, courtesy of 3D Supervisor Ruslan Ogorodnik.
Initially, the archive scene was conceived as a 2D shot that would stitched together using several pieces captured on the film’s London set. However, the nature of the scene and the existence of only minimal props necessitated a 3D solution. “We still shot a lot of live action reference,” says The Chimney Pot visual effects supervisor Fredrik Nord, responsible for overseeing the work with executive producer Fredrik Zander and VFX producers Anneli Oscarsson Emma Stenborg.
“They knew they needed the actor in the middle stealing the files and some workers on the other levels,” adds Nord. “We shot lots of material of people walking around. We also shot a lot of texture plates of the bookcases and other objects for the 3D and took measurements.”
Back in Stockholm, Nord began building the entire archive set in Softimage, complete with textured bookshelves, stairs, beams and pipes. “The challenge was to work out how many floors there were, how many elevators, where was all this in relation to the archive?,” says Nord.
3D supervisor Ruslan Ogorodnik then took over the scene, lighting and rendering it in high detail using 3ds Max and V-Ray. The CG renders were then composited by Olle Peterson Oskar Larsson, Axel Klostermann and Andreas Karlsson in Nuke with plates of the main actor and extras filmed on greenscreen.
The archive had to match a look established with a live action plate for the shot of the file traveling in an elevator. “When we were in London shooting the elevator,” explains Nord, “we covered it with a greenscreen shot of a lady walking in placing files on a desk. Then we had this still of the front of the elevator which we animated and comp’d into the shot. It’s a 3D background with a small move to match the greensceen shot and then composited. The hardest part was matching lenses to the wide shot. It was tricky to get the live actor in the center to look real even though the lenses were way off from pulling the camera back.”
Ultimately, The Chimney Pot ended up contributing around 100 shots to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, including scenes of tracks changing on a railroad, background trains and landmarks, plus a gruesome post-murder shot of a man with flies hovering about his neck wound. The facility also provided the film’s DI services.