Predestination (2014) is a sci-fi drama about a time-traveling agent (Ethan Hawke) who is sent on a mission by his employer (Noah Taylor), to pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

From the intriguing minds of the Spierig brothers, Predestination is set in a variety locations and time periods – including 1970s New York –  yet the feature was shot entirely in Melbourne. According to Rangi Sutton, Cutting Edge VFX Supervisor, creating the 1970’s vision of the future was a task his team relished.

“We directed the VFX to follow suit on the cool retro-future production design for our digital prop pieces which included clocks and bomb mechanisms, while paying attention to period details for set extensions such as car, graffiti and signage for streetscapes,” he said.

A key shot was a wide establishing scene of 1970s New York, which was filmed on a crane in a Melbourne alleyway, with a selection of period vehicles and costumed extras. Our VFX team extended the road and transformed it into a full city street. With 3D rendering and digital matte paintings, the buildings were extended, New York style fire escapes were added along with neon signs, rubbish bins, cars, taxis and pedestrians. The scene was further dressed with graffiti and steam – all designed to match photographs of the time period.

According to the Spierig Brothers the value-added thinking that Cutting Edge brought to the table was invaluable.

“That’s what we love about them, they really do invest a lot of time, energy and ideas up front, thinking and testing before anything really gets going”

Michael Spierig / Director, Predestination

When creating the time travel transitions, the audience sees a ‘suction’ effect as the character leaves a time track. The Cutting Edge VFX team created tests in pre-production, shooting elements and rendering 3D props to get an idea of how this would best play out.

As a result, the directors shot multiple passes of props being nudged, knocked over or blown about, leaving up to eight takes for Rangi and the team to stitch together into a single shot.

“You can feel and sense their passion for the craft every day”

Michael Spierig / Director, Predestination

From the outset, the brief from the Spierig Brothers was to keep the VFX ‘hidden’. Rangi explained, “this was never to be a flashy visual effects heavy time travel caper, as this would distract from the concept and story.”

There were technical shots which required green screen and split screen work. For one shot, Sarah Snook’s character crosses her own time track – there’s two of her on the screen at the same time – and then they kiss. For one shot her body was replaced entirely with another performers. The skin tones, body part sizes and the light movements – all had to be meticulously matched.