SYDNEY — In one of the most graphic sequences in “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise’s character yanks a bloodied sword from the back of a felled Ninja.
Cruise mimed the scene, and the sword was added later by the visual-effects wizards at Rising Sun Pictures, the Aussie firm that has worked on several Hollywood films that never set foot Down Under.
For director Ed Zwick’s epic, RSP conjured up hundreds of crossbow darts, a chopstick in the eye, a throwing star that slices into a Samurai’s neck, and heaps of blood. And it digitally removed bloodstains from Cruise’s hand and cuff after the helmer decided he didn’t want them.
In the last few months, RSP has worked on “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Last Samurai,” “Paycheck” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
“Our clients speak to us at end of the day in the U.S., we work while they sleep, and there are new shots ready for them to cut into the film when they arrive at work the next day,” says RSP’s head of production James Whitlam.
The Oz dollar vs. the greenback is also an advantage for the Aussie firm, but by no means a clincher. “The days of being able to win work on the back of currency rates are almost gone, as we’re already seeing competition in China and India poised to take advantage of productions wanting to outsource repetitive, low-cost visual-effects work,” Whitlam says.
“We’re competing primarily with companies in California and London for the jobs that require a highly skilled labor force. It comes down to how well and how efficiently you can get the work done.”
The first U.S. productions serviced by RSP, Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures’ “Red Planet” and “Queen of the Damned,” were lensed Down Under. That led to work from the same VFX supervisors on “The Core,” “Samurai” and “Paycheck.”
For the “Rings” finale, the firm added computer-generated lava, debris, smoke and camera shake for the climatic “Crack of Doom” sequence, plus, in league with Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, shots of an Orc and most of the key characters.