Spectre’s Incredibly Subtle CGI: Before and After

James Bond’s latest adventure ‘Spectre’ has been praised for its use of practical effects and stunt work, but there’s actually a surprising amount of digital trickery on display that you probably never noticed.

90 people at visual effects firm Cinesite worked on the film throughout the production contributing 334 shots to the final film ranging from huge digital matte paintings of Rome cityscapes to a tiny CG mouse. 

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Yahoo is delighted to be able to share some of the amazingly subtle work created by the London and Montreal-based firm for the very first time.

VFX supervisor Zave Jackson talks us through the work Cinesite completed.

Warning: Plot spoilers coming up…

Oberhauser’s Palazzo in Rome

Zave Jackson: “The location for Oberhauser’s Palazzo was Blenheim Palace near Oxford. For the shots of Bond arriving at the Palazzo as well as other shots in the main courtyard we made architectural modifications to simplify the roofline and make it more classically Roman in style. This was done using a fully lit 3D model of Blenheim created by the team, which was modified to match the required look.”

Establishing shot of Oberhauser’s Palazzo in Rome

Zave Jackson: “For the night-time palace establisher Bond approaches in his Aston, which was filmed from a helicopter over the Piazza Garibaldi in Rome.  This shot re uses the CG Blenheim models, digital matte painting work and CG trees to create the surrounding scenery and palace grounds. We also did some tricky crew and vehicle removals from the plate.”

Palazzo meeting room interior

Zave Jackson: “The meeting room interior at the Palazzo where Bond eaves drops on the secret Spectre meeting was an impressive set on A stage at Pinewood studios. Cinesite produced set top ups and ceiling replacements to extend the set. We used a combination of digital matte painting work and a full CG build of the vaulted ceiling and ornate columns needed for this grand room. Digital fixes to the large wooden table were also created to disguise the stunt mats needed for Lorenzo’s fall and the attack on the Spaniard.”

Mr Hinx attacks the Spaniard

Zave Jackson: “The key shot in this scene lingers for a moment as we see Hinx’s thumb’s push into the eyes of the unfortunate Spaniard. Although shot using a blunt rubberised version of the sharp metal thumbnail prop there was understandable tentativeness on the part of both actors. Cinesite needed to digitally stabilise and reposition the thumbs to make the connection suitably gruesome and believable. Depending on whether the blunt version or the metal thumbnail prop was in use other shots in the scene required either blood additions or thumbnail point extensions.”

CGI mouse in the Hotel Americaine

Zave Jackson: “One of our main CG assets, which also required a convincing fur groom, was the creation of a CG mouse for the hotel room scene where Bond is searching for whatever Mr White may have hidden there.

“The quality of the fur groom and the lighting for both the mouse and head replacements are something I am particularly proud of. They translate into seamless, finished shots. The mouse scene was received well by cinema audiences and they were able to be completely immerse themselves in this humorous moment where a slightly bleary eyed Bond interrogates a mouse.”

CGI train

Zave Jackson: “We created a full CG train for use in scenes after Bond and Madeleine leave Tangiers, as the train available to production at the time of shooting did not have the correct number, or type of carriages. In several exterior shots we extended the train from four to seven carriages with part of our full CG asset.”

Rome for Tangiers

The original plate for this establishing shot of Tangiers was actually shot in Rome. Cinesite composited a digital matte painting of Tangiers into the background, but you’d never know the difference unless we’d pointed it out.

Hotel L’Americaine CG exterior

Here, another wide establishing shot filmed in Rome was transformed into Tangiers by Cinesite who added a CG exterior for the Hotel L’Americaine as well as some palm trees to make it more Moroccan.

It’s the sort of CGI that only succeeds when the moviegoers don’t realise it’s there as Jackson explains.  

“For a Bond film the biggest challenge for the VFX is for them to support and enhance the film but to remain completely invisible. Recreating elements from the real world, which all viewers will instinctively be familiar with, can often present more of a challenge than inserting something that is obviously invented.”

‘Spectre’ is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer below.

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Image credits: Cinesite provided 334 VFX shots for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions latest 007 feature SPECTRE