As the principal VFX and post production vendor, Cutting Edge delivered 183 VFX shots and provided full post-production services.

Highlights from our VFX team’s work included the creation of the 1906 version of the Winchester mansion, by digitally extending a single floor of a practical facade, and a foreboding levitation scene, requiring CGI rifles and debris.

“ Cutting Edge has consistently gone above and beyond to assist our wildest ideas, and in many ways, contributed to the creative solutions.”

Michael Spierig / Director

Video: Winchester International Trailer

The Winchester Production Designer Matt Putland, built the first floor of the mansion in Melbourne. The design of the facade was a close match to the house as it still stands in San Jose, with the paint colour changed to be more historically correct. Whenever the shots were wider, such as establishing shots and tilt-ups, the vast size of the mansion needed to be represented.

Exterior tilt-up VFX shot of the Winchester mansion.

“The mansion was to be seen from all angles, with moving cameras, different lighting, day and night, and it isn’t even the same colour as the house currently is. While we had a great resource that the mansion still stands, this clearly needed to be a 3D build.”

Rangi Sutton / Cutting Edge VFX Supervisor

Joining the production at the San Jose location, VFX Supervisor Rangi Sutton worked with the local drone team headed by Jesse Kaltenbach to capture over 4000 images of the mansion from a drone and hand held cameras. Back in Brisbane, Senior Cutting Edge 3D Artist Robert Kelly, compiled the drone photographs into the photogrammetry package Agisoft PhotoScan to create the CG base model of the estate. This gave the team a model to start placing into shots and aligning with the facade.

Building the Winchester mansion: From photogrammetry to 3D models and final composite exterior shots.

With these core components ready, the VFX shots placed 3D extensions into the camera matched shots. The photogrammetry was an excellent guide to how things should be, but was too soft – especially in the details for the distinctive fish-scale wall tiling – and the house was the wrong colour for the period. Section by section our artists replaced the photogrammetry with modelled sections. This was a combination of Maya for the broader architecture, and Houdini to add the procedural shingles and repeating features.

While the production crew was at the San Jose location, historian Janan Boehme revealed the deconstructed remains of the seven-story tower, that stood prior to the 1906 earthquake. When the tower came down, it wasn’t destroyed. instead, it was stored in pieces. By using measurements and photographs of all these pieces, together with two historical photographs of the tower, an accurate 3D reconstruction was made.

Earthquake Sequence: Replicating the effects of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

“The Winchester mansion extensions were the result of many VFX disciplines, especially modelling, lighting, compositing and digital matte painting. The introduction of drone-based photogrammetry to the mix meant we quickly got our fundamentals of the work locked in and saved huge amounts of time on set surveys and modelling.”

Rangi Sutton / Cutting Edge VFX Supervisor

Amongst the on set debris from the earthquake, the climactic scene required our VFX artists to generate a paranormal encounter featuring a standoff between the main characters and a room full of eerily levitating Winchester rifles. Having fallen from their glass display cases, the rifles are surrounded by glass and plaster and are covered in dust particles.

Rifles float in mid-air surrounded by flying glass fragments and particles before they take aim.

Hundreds of photographs were taken of the rifles available on the stage shoot. Senior Asset Artist John Chen used them as a reference to build digital replications of these rifles, adding geometric and textural detail to the point we could have them in the same frame as their practically filmed versions.

The practical on-stage armoury had 50 rifles, of which Cutting Edge photographed individually. To build that much variation into the levitating swarm, the 3D artists lead by Senior 3D Artist Chelsea Shannon, turned to procedural – or programmed – textures. This produced unique wood grain patterns and colours per rifle. The dust splattered over the rifles was handled with a mixture of photographic textures of dust splatters, and procedural shaders to place them in randomised patterns around the rifles.

“We knew the rifles had to be photorealistic, while being naturally unique and also art directable. This was clearly a scene for Houdini, which gave us hand animated options for key rifles, but also very controllable motion for the swarms of rifles and debris. Every element needed to be tuneable, such as the rate of spin of the pieces of glass versus the amount they would drift through the air.”

Rangi Sutton / Cutting Edge VFX Supervisor