The Illusion Almanac is pleased to share this press release from One of Us.
Directed by Christian Schwochow (The Crown) and based on the international bestseller by Robert Harris, Netflix’s historical thriller Munich – The Edge of War explores the tensions between Adolf Hitler as he prepares to invade Czechoslovakia, while Neville Chamberlain’s government desperately seeks a peaceful solution.
Through impeccable visual effects, One of Us helps portray a world on the brink of the deadliest war in history. Supervised by Theo Demiris and Jacopo Landi, the OOU team delivered a total of 215 VFX shots, including meticulous environmental work, CG assets and set extensions.
“Visual effects for historical films are the kind of work which, if done well, is invisible, and at the same time integral to the storytelling.”One of Us director Dominic Parker
The attentive work of CG Supervisor Felipe Canfora, perfectly combines art with historical research. An example of this is Hitler’s train for whichCanfora watched many documentaries for the right references to ensure the lighting and all the minor details were correct. Moreover, One of Us played a pivotal role in this sequence by shooting with a large LED wall of over 150sqm – designed by the team in partnership with virtual production supervisor Marko Massinger – rather than on a green screen. “Hitler’s wagon was made out of reflective mahogany wood and shooting with an LED wall offered incredible interactive light and reflections,” explains VFX Supervisor Theo Demiris. “It looked real and it saved us about 50 VFX shots and added so much value to the picture.”
According to Jacopo Landi, who supervised the delivery of the film with 2D Supervisor Guillaume Menard, the most challenging aspect was to replicate historical environments that don’t exist in the modern day. For instance, the team worked on a sequence where a giant barrage balloon, used at the time to protect the city from the bombs, was collapsed onto a building. “That was probably one of the hardest shots that we did,” explains Landi. “The director wanted it to look like a ‘monster’ in a sense that he looked alive and scary at the same time.” The team built the model from scratch. “We needed to find the right material to use as reference for this particular texture, and make sure the lighting, animation and movements were correct, ‘‘ continues Landi. “The director wanted the structure to look messy , as it needed to be partly inflated and partially deflated, with extra details like hanging ropes.” It is fascinating to think about the complexity of this shot, which in the final film counts for only 150 frames, but took the team almost two months to bring to life.
The filming and the storyline split across two locations: the UK and Germany. The locations have changed a lot since the war, so representing the correct architecture of the period was key. Jacopo Landi explains how they worked with set extensions to enhance the Führerbau building in Munich and the surrounding area, but also to recreate the long and intimidating streets of Berlin at night time: “The shallow depth of field creates this nice light bokeh effect in the shots.”
The director wanted to emphasise imperfections by adding flickering lights that could create lens anomalies, plus additional elements, such as smoke and dirt where needed. He was very thoughtful toward background action and directed OOU to add a lot of life, cars/buses in the background, flickering billboards, people etc.
“In this film everything is a bit rough and messy. It didn’t need to be beautiful in terms of being perfect. It needed some sort of imperfection that sometimes is even harder to get.”Visual effects supervisor Jacopo Landi
VFX Producer Ali Griffith’s favourite sequence was the very opening scene of the film: the Oxford skyline at night time. “The director wanted it to be more distinctive looking and to make sure that viewers immediately recognized it as Oxford,” she explains. One of Us proudly took on that challenge and its VFX team created the concept working closely with the director to achieve what he intended.
“The opening Oxford sequence pleasantly surprised me because it ended up being much more beautiful than I thought it would be.”Visual effects producer Ali Griffith
The team really enjoyed working on this project. Involved from the very beginning, VFX Supervisor, Theo Demiris had the chance to build a very good relationship with the director on set and have a positive influence on how the VFX were supervised all the way through. “It really does result in beautiful images at the end,” concludes Griffith.
Film producer Andrew Eaton revealed that the work One of Us achieved was even far beyond his expectations. “You know it doesn’t happen all the time, so it’s all the sweeter when it does. Christian set the bar very high for us all, but thank you for all your work and for making it such an enjoyable and satisfying experience. I hope it gets the recognition it deserves.”