Hot Fuzz is widely tipped to be the next Brit flick to find runaway success in the US. Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, directed by Wright and starring Pegg and regular associate Nick Frost, the action comedy is released in the UK on 14th February and in the US on 13th April. Produced by Working Title Films in Association with Big Talk Productions, and with cinematography by Jess Hall, the film was given some of its VFX and an elaborate digital intermediate at Framestore CFC.
Wright and Pegg have already proved themselves on the big screen with their previous outing together, the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. This time around they’re taking on the action-cop genre, though giving it a typically British twist by setting it in an apparently sleepy English village. With a cast that reads like a Who’s Who of British acting, including Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Billie Whitelaw, plus a host of comedy cameos, the Hot Fuzz buzz is already very good.
“I knew within a couple of hours that Framestore CFC was going to be a safe pair of hands for us. Asa (Shoul) completely got the spirit of the film and the looks we wanted, and he and Jess (Hall) worked brilliantly together to create the perfect ‘Hollywood’ feel for our film.” – Edgar Wright, Director
Working with Director of Photography Jess Hall, Framestore CFC Senior Colourist Asa Shoul graded the main body of the film in just three weeks. In parallel with this, in a second suite, Colourist Brian Krijgsman worked on opticals.
“I think that the first point to make,” says Shoul, “Is that this is not a ‘small British film’: it’s very ambitious technically, both in terms of its looks and style. There are around 5,300 shots in its 111 minutes; an average film would have around 1,750 shots. So we were facing three times the number of shots we would normally deal with. With the amount of one frame cuts in Hot Fuzz, I honestly don’t know how a conventional lab could have handled it – timing it would have been a nightmare.
When you add to this the fact that there were over 250 optical effects and 277 VFX, you can see why this project was special.”
Deadline pressures notwithstanding, Shoul enjoyed working on Hot Fuzz enormously. “Working with Jess was great,” he says, “And for a week after Christmas I worked with just Edgar. He’s a huge movie buff (as you might have guessed), and we seemed to spend half the time talking about Jackie Chan.” It’s a movie steeped in reference and pastiche, and at one point, Shoul says, “Jess and Edgar even talked in advance of doing the final reel and shootouts ?? la Tony Scott or Bad Boys 2 – you know, that heavy tobacco, heavy grad look.
But we decided in the end that that was just one step too far – it would have been too inconsistent with the rest of the film. On the other hand, we did bump up the saturation 10-20% in some places, to give it a glossier look than you might expect. Another factor was the brutal shooting schedule. I think that there was just one scene where they waited for the sun to be there – everything else had to be shot as and when, so I did a lot of weather matching.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Brian Krijgsman worked with Editor Chris Dickens in the second of Framestore CFC’s three DI suites, adding around 60 muzzle flashes, 70 wipe effects, and 20 split screens. For the muzzle flashes Krijgsman built a database with single frames of selected shots where the flash was relevant for the gun in question. He would then composite this over the new shot, which involved panning and scanning the background plate, hand drawing a shape and mixing it through. “It’s what we would call an extreme optical,” comments Shoul, “And it verges on VFX.”
Krijgsman also removed boom reflections from sunglasses and windows and added specific camera shake to around 60 shots, particularly in fight scenes and the car chase. To make things even more complicated, there are scenes where the camera was hand cranked, and the fluctuating light level had to be dynamically graded so that it didn’t pop on a cut. On some flashback scenes Krijgsman added a flicker effect where every few frames we would change the exposure. “Our philosophy,” explains Shoul, “Is that we’ll try to do everything we’re asked in the DI, pushing our toolset to the limit, rather than just saying to the client that what they are asking for is a VFX. But if it does prove too ambitious we’ll ask our Digital Lab compositors to try it. Of course, if all else fails we’ve always got the mighty Framestore CFC VFX team to fall back on.”
Scratches and dust from the 167,000 frames were removed by a team of five in just over a week, and the Digital Lab Compositing team added captions using Shake, and steadied the hands of the church clock using Baselight. All seven reels of the movie were filmed out in three days, and an HD master was played out directly from the Baselight to HDD5 for the press previews and cast and crew screening.
A Working Title Films production In Association with Big Talk Productions
Director Edgar Wright
Cinematographer Jess Hall
Producer Tim Bevan, Nira Park
Associate Producer Karen Beever
Colourist Asa Shoul
Additional Colourist Brian Krijgsman
Producer Sarah Micallef
Production Manager Mike Morrison
Conform Editors Charlie Habanananda, Stuart Nippard, Dan Victoire, Annabel Wright
Scanning and Recording Manager Andy Burrow
Scanning and Recording Dan Perry, Jason Burnett, Joe Godfrey, Joseph Hoare, Veronica Marcano
Data Operators David Johnston, Rafiqur Khan , Simon Wessely
Retouch and Restoration Louie Alexander, Adam Hawkes, Aaron Lear, Savneet Nagi, Nick Stanley, O’Dean Thompson
Film Mastering Engineers Kevin Lowery, Yan Jennings
Digital Lab Engineers Jerome Dewhurst, Ian Redmond, Eric D’Souza
Editorial Gavin Round
Executive Producer Jan Hogevold
Head of Digital Lab Ben Baker