Union Team Add Drama to The 355
Oscar winner Penelope Cruz and nominee Jessica Chastain lead an impressive cast in The 355, a female led action thriller in the vein of James Bond and Mission: Impossible.
The Union team led by DFX supervisor Dillan Nicholls provided a rich variety of work for the show. For the dramatic opening shot of the film Union augmented drone stock footage flying over the Colombian jungle and added a CG combat helicopter flying into frame, low over the trees. Later in the sequence, as soldiers stalk the mansion we opened out the jungle behind them, adding a 2.5D DMP hillside environment and space to land and integrate the CG helicopter as well as more soldiers in the background. This greatly enhanced the sequence giving a sense of depth and scale.
The Columbian Cartel's Bogota mansion itself was shot in Surrey. Union provided the building with an extensive 2.5D rebuild using architectural adjustments and changes to the surrounding garden environment and foliage to sell it as a tropical location. This included both aerial wide shots of the location from moving cameras, and close ups where green screen doors were replaced with interiors.
For the view from inside the mansion looking out through the windows we provided a full 2.5D garden and jungle environment. As a demonstration of the destructive power of a new device they are selling, the bad guys blow up and crash a passenger plane. Union created the CG plane and FX explosion, integrating it into the sky above the jungle environment.
Union also provided gore and muzzle flashes for the mansion shoot out, as well as some tricky prep work rebuilding parts of the mansion to remove camera and lighting equipment and crew reflections.
The 355 was shot through the Covid lock-downs, and there were problems to solve with actors unable to return to locations for re-shoots. Union was able to assist with the integration of green screen shoots of actors with 2.5D rebuilds of locations at the Columbian mansion using stills photographed on set.
Parts of the chase sequence in the Morocco souk were filmed in a studio set in the UK. Union provided full CG rooftop set extensions and extensive DMP augmentation adding props and street furniture. The sequence felt too clean for a souk location so Union was also tasked with adding layers of atmospheric dust and smoke to the scene using a combination of bespoke FX simulations and 2D elements.
Union also provided a full CG exterior wide shot of a Boeing C-17 military cargo plane flying the 355 team through a cloudy evening sky. The sky was created with a combination of DMP, FX and 2D cloud elements, giving a strong sense of movement as the plane passes by.
DFX supervisor Dillan Nicholls commented: 'This was a great, action packed show to work on for the team at Union, with everything from CG helicopters and planes to shoot-outs to environments work converting Surrey into the Columbian jungle. What better escapism for a team of VFX artists in the middle of lockdown! We loved working with the team at Universal and particularly the editor Lee Smith ACE (The Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar) who was overseeing the VFX work.'
Dillan and the Union team have recently worked with Lee Smith again on Sam Mendes' hotly anticipated Empire of Light, scheduled for release in 2023.