Visual effects studio tops its award-winning effort in previous
X-Men movie with explosive Quicksilver ‘Extraction’ sequence.
Adelaide, South AustraliaX-Men: Apocalypse, the latest entrant in Twentieth
Century Fox’s popular superhero franchise, features more time-bending magic
from Australia’s Rising Sun Pictures. The visual effects studio contributed to
several key sequences in the film, most notably an electrifying scene where
Quicksilver (Evan Peters) uses his hyper-speed ability to rescue students from
an exploding mansion.
Quicksilver’s Rescue builds on a notable scene from
the preceding X-Men: Days of Future Past where the character races
around a Pentagon cafeteria to prevent security guards from shooting a trio of
X-Men. RSP’s impeccable work in making pots, pans, bullets and water drops
freeze in mid-air helped the film earn an Academy Award nomination for Best
Visual Effects.

The new film takes Quicksilver’s superhero antics to
a new level. As an explosion rips through Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted
Youngsters, the speedy mutant races from room to room rescuing students (while
pausing to sip a soda and consume a slice of pizza) with everything set to the
Eurythmics classic Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). Where the last time
the trick included choreographing thousands of falling water drops, this time
it was particles of exploding debris, giant fire balls and one very lucky dog.
RSP’s team, led by Visual Effects Supervisors Tim
Crosbie and Dennis Jones and working under the direction of Director Bryan
Singer and Production Visual Effects Supervisors John Dykstra and Matt Sloan,
had the advantage of having worked with Quicksilver before, but faced the
challenge of exceeding their previous, award-winning effort. “For the last
film, we had to figure out what makes Quicksilver tick, how to get it on film
and how to make it believable,” notes Jones. “But we were lucky, because it all
happened in one room. This time, he moves through ten locations each with a
unique story point. Everything is bigger and bolder.”
The transition from real time to “Quicksilver time” occurs
just as the explosion that will take down the school begins to erupt. A car
carrying Cyclops and Nightcrawler slows to a near halt. Bees freeze in midair.
That part of the sequence was created by knitting together several motion
control plates, shot at high frame rate, with digital mansion and bee elements,
and pyrotechnics. 

At that point Quicksilver appears (moving in apparent real
time). He saves a group of kids in the building’s lobby by tossing them out a
window. As the students fly away, they slow down. “Each of the characters had
to be stabilized, repositioned and frozen in time,” recalls Jones. “The room is
filled with frozen debris and, in the background, a fireball is approaching
through a hallway. In terms of challenges, that scene had it all.”
Live action elements for the various rooms were shot
on practical sets, but as the explosion proceeded, parts of rooms needed to be
replaced with digital elements showing them being torn apart. In fact, the
entire process of the explosion was carefully choreographed. “In the initial
shots, a pressure wave moves through the building, carrying with it debris and
a nice, velvety buffer of dust,” notes Jones. “By the end of the sequence the
dust is gone and we are left with a naked, oily fireball.”
Managing massive amounts dust, fire and debris,
slowed down more than 1000 times required tremendous computing power and data
management, and efficient workflow design. But it wasn’t all number crunching;
artists also got to indulge in bits of fun. Quicksilver is a whimsical
character and punctuates his life-saving work by pausing to eat and drink, and
otherwise toy with his immobile environment. RSP artists manipulated
Quicksilver’s surroundings to heighten the comic effect. “We looked for ways to
ratchet up the sense of danger,” Jones explains. “Quicksilver is a very playful
guy, but he’s always operating right at the limit. If he does one more moon
walk or pulls one more gag, someone is going to die.”
One of Quicksilver’s last-minute rescues is a dog
(played by Bryan Singer’s pet boxer). Jones notes that the team relished the
opportunity to send the canine on his way, his ears flapping and tongue wagging
in super slow motion. “That’s the dream,” he says. “You forget about all the
nuts and bolt and focus on telling a good story.”
RSP created a number of other effects for the film
including one where a young Cyclops accidentally destroys a tree that had been
a favorite of Professor Xavier. The digital mansion that the studio built
recurs at several points in the film. But for sheer energy and visual fun,
Quicksilver’s Rescue is most likely to impress audiences. It’s a real show
stopper (no pun intended).
About Rising Sun Pictures:
Sun Pictures are a passionate team of producers, artists and technicians, known
globally for delivering complex visual effects on high profile feature film and
television projects. Our clients are inspired by the creative and technical
solutions we deliver, and our team is integral in providing a truly
collaborative experience. RSP is currently working on Pan, Tarzan and Gods of
Egypt, with recent film credits including X-Men: Days of Future Past, Gravity,
The Seventh Son, The Wolverine, The Great Gatsby, The Hunger Games, Prometheus,
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Green Lantern and the final five Harry Potter
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