From Munich to LA
Trixter delivers visual effects for twisted superhero tale Brightburn
It’s a familiar comic book tale: a small spaceship crash-lands on a farm carrying an infant boy, and a married couple rescues the child and raises him as their own. As he grows, the boy begins exhibiting incredible superpowers.
Brightburn borrows those iconic narrative beats, but as the child matures and his latent abilities surface, the confused and angry boy begins acting out and using them for evil purposes. Before long, he’s become the exact opposite a hero —a terrifying prospect indeed.
Filmmakers turned to German VFX leader Trixter to ensure that the film’s limited budget did not compromise the quality of the production and sell this dark vision, relying on cineSync video review to close the physical gap between Munich and Los Angeles.
Staying in sync
Keeping in close contact from the other side of the world, Trixter was the primary vendor on Brightburn, handling the vast majority of shots throughout production. According to VFX Producer Christine Resch, the initial talks about the show came about via a positive working relationship with the film’s producer, James Gunn, from a previous project.
“We already had a very close connection to him through Trixter’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” says Resch. “He approached us with Brightburn, and we worked on the entire range from set supervision all the way to VFX in post.”
Remote, reputable studios like Trixter are on the rise, which allowed Gunn and director Dave Yarovesky to feel confident in his choice. The tools now exist to make far-flung, real-time, visual communication possible. Vendors can be brought in from the opposite side of the world, in a different language or time zone, and produce seamless results – regardless of budget.
cineSync was also a key part of production on Brightburn well before post. When Resch and VFX supervisor Dietrich Hasse were on-set in Atlanta, they used cineSync to keep in touch with the home team. That made it easy for Trixter to remain in unison despite being split across multiple continents. As the film industry continues to expand at a global level, cineSync will enable independent studios to become more trusted – and take on more projects – than ever before.
“As the supervisor and I were working on-set, we were still discussing ideas with the crew that we already had set up in Munich and presenting them to the client,” Resch says. “cineSync was really helpful to actually share ideas as we were going on-set, just on the go.”
“cineSync is truly the only program that we’ve been using here for years now,” she adds. “It’s really like we’re sitting in the same room and discussing our work.”
Nailing every detail
Trixter did a lot of look development on the project, and cineSync was a critical tool during that process. cineSync allows collaborators to connect together in a real-time session from anywhere in the world, letting everyone draw atop and annotate frames and see the results just as if they were in the same room looking at the same screen. It allows for unambiguous feedback, ensuring that no details were lost between the far-flung locations.
“When we were discussing details like lighting in the background or dust particles, it was good to just really be on the same page with a tiny little spot on the image,” says Resch of cineSync. “There was a lot of destruction and dust particles, and a lot of effects going on. Anything that involved a laser—the development of this effect was very intense, and there’s so many different ways that you can approach a laser shooting out of eyes. It was good to have cineSync to go back and forth during that process.”
In one memorable scene from the film, we see a close-up of a woman pulling glass shards out of her eye. Naturally, Trixter wanted that gross-out sequence to look and feel as unnervingly lifelike as it could. “There’s actually a lot of different layers put together,” says Resch, “and it was really important for us working through cineSync to see how we would handle it and light it, to make sure it was as realistic as possible.”
For other parts of the film, Trixter developed intricate digital doubles of actors Jackson Dunn and Elizabeth Banks. They worked from scans of the actors, and also close-up images of the boy’s mask to ensure that the digital results matched the physical sources. Ultimately, it allowed Trixter more flexibility to deliver on the director’s vision.
“We needed a lot of creativity and the freedom to work on ideas that came up in post, so we wanted to make sure we had all the possibilities that we needed afterwards for approaching these shots. You obviously can’t have a little boy smashing out of a house,” Resch says. “We were able to fulfil the director’s vision much closer by going for a digi-double.”
cineSync enables creativity
Brightburn was a one-of-a-kind project for Trixter, and a chance to have fun exploring some dark and thoroughly intense subject matter. For Resch, it was exciting to see the final film after being a part of the entire process, and ultimately watch their collective VFX masterwork spring to life on the big screen.
“Just to see it come together from the onset, where we were sharing our first layout and concept ideas through cineSync, and then going to the final image and seeing it put all together,” she says. “Having these shots—like a head exploding with laser blasts or a jaw falling off, you don’t get to do this every day. Like someone drawing a little piece of flesh and someone else shouting, ‘Make it extra gory!’ It was a lot of fun.”
“It was such a great, creative process for us to work with Dave, James and the producers Simon Hatt and Dan Clifton,” she concludes, “which was really only made possible through cineSync.”