Director: Ron Howard
Studio: Exclusive Media/Universal Pictures
Released: 13th September 2013
Dneg VFX Supervisor: Jody Johnson
Dneg VFX Producers: Moriah Etherington-Sparks (London), Darcie Muangman (Singapore)
Ron Howard’s Rush details the epic true life battle, between 70s Formula One superstars Niki Lauda and James Hunt, for the 1976 world championship. The story takes in multiple countries, vast grandstand crowds, car-to-car battles and serious crashes – including the infamous crash that almost ended Niki Lauda’s career and life.
Tasked with bringing this heady world authentically to the big screen, we worked from early in pre-production, carefully previs’ing each race and poring over all available archive footage to help orchestrate the live action. In fact, we were able to incorporate a small amount of archive material in the final movie, after careful clean up and matchmove, using story-relevant cars in the live archive footage.
Our work included painstakingly recreating nine famous racetracks from around the world (many of which no longer exist) in the correct period setting and correct weather conditions: including Crystal Palace in England, Nurburgring in Germany and Fuji in Japan.
As well as recreating the tracks themselves, we worked to extend set pieces filmed in the UK, to be parts of the racetrack environments (e.g. pit locations) to add track ‘flavour’. On modern tracks you cannot get close to the track for safety reasons, but in the 1970s crowds were always dangerously close to the action. We added in crowds, props, vehicles and general environment dressing around the loctions to recreate the colourful, vibrant feel of the 70s.
Via green screen shots we sat our hero actors firmly within the race action, with their car’s bodywork enhanced with moving reflections/lighting. To help integrate them into the race environment, we also added camera movement and FX.
CG cars were seamlessly integrated into the race with the live action cars shot in plate – they then took centre stage for the more dangerous thrills, spills and crunching crashes.
Finally, we were charged with the recreation of the the movie’s most pivotal and traumatic moments. In the annals of F1 history, the Nurburgring crash that nearly ended Niki Lauda’s life is legendary. When the crash took place In 1976, the sporting world wasn’t saturated with today’s all-seeing television cameras. The accident was only amateur-filmed by a single teenage boy. From this recording alone we had to faithfully recreate the crash, depicting car movement, fire and destruction, while providing new and original perspectives.
In the post-crash sequence, the scene’s nature meant actors could only be safely filmed with little or no fire surrounding them – it was our challenge to recreate the danger, the heat, and the intensity of the original accident.