Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage features an incredible title sequence that of a journey of a bullet from the arms factory to the guerilla rebels in Africa. An interesting study in live and CG compositing and HDRI reflection.
L’E.S.T. visual effects supervisor Yann Blondel talks about the digital techniques he employed for key sequences in Lord of War opening ‘bullet factory’ titles
At the beginning of the sequence we dive on a machine. This machine has been created/extended using CGI and some animation has been added to it. That shot had also been accelerated and stabilised.
Inside the machinery everything is CGI until we emerge on the conveyor belt.
The conveyor belt itself is CGI and the bullets are as well. The background needed to be reconstructed in CGI because the camera was waving a little too much and we wanted a straight trajectory. When the bullet is picked up, the actor and the hand have been shot against green screen and composited on a CGI background.
After being tossed back on the conveyor belt we fall in a tube. Here, again, everything is CGI until we fall in the crate full of bullets (which is obviously CGI).
We emerge on the second conveyor belt. The background has been retimed and stabilized. Here only the foreground is CGI. It’s exactly the same case when the crate is opened in the Ukrainian Harbor.
When the crate is opened again in Africa it’s another story. When the bullet falls and rolls on the ground everything is CGI. We had shot a nice movement but the distance with the ground wasn’t good. We had to recreate the whole background in CGI to gain a couple of inches! And as there were moving elements it wasn’t simple.
Then the bullet is tossed in another crate full of ammunitions (all CGI). While being loaded into the truck and travelling through the jungle the crate and the bullets are CGI.
In the street, until we get thrown on the ground, only the crates and the bullets are CGI. But when we get loaded in the magazine everything is CGI from background to the magazine and the barrel of the AK47.
And then, when the bullet is shot we only added a CGI bullet, some guys fighting in the street, accelerated and stabilized the shot.
XSI, Shake, After Effects, Photoshop and Matchmover for 3D tracking.
L’E.S.T. (visit the link for some major vfx shot breakdowns and stuff.