VFX Classics Spawn New Offspring With ‘Man of Steel,’ ‘Percy Jackson’

Superman, Greek Myths get 21st-century updates


Several of this year’s summer blockbusters have strong ties — either direct origins or strong inspirations — to some classic vfx titles that have become touchstones for this generation’s vfx artists.

Man of Steel,” the latest take on the Superman mythology, will bring back General Zod, the hero’s Kryptonian nemesis for a battle royale. This fight, though, will be shot cinema verite, in contrast to 1978’s “Superman: The Movie.”

According to vfx supervisor John ‘DJ’ Desjardin, it was a challenge to shoot a fight scene between two characters with superpowers while using a decidedly documentary-style of a camera work during the whole process.Vfx supervisor Dan Kaufman, who was heavily influenced by the late great Ray Harryhausen as a kid, found himself creating the kind of archetypal monsters immortalized by the master filmmaker for “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”

“I saw ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ when I was a kid and that kind of spurred my interest in doing visual effects,” says Kaufman, citing the monsters and magic in the movie.

Kaufman went on to make Super 8 movies and tried to do his own stop motion animation and homespun vfx from there. Today Kaufman is especially proud of the two Cyclopses in “Percy Jackson.”

It was clear to “White House Down” vfx supervisors Volker Engel and Marc Weigert after reading the script the story had the feeling of a “Die Hard” sort of story. Little did they realize they’d have 900 shots for the film based as there’s little to no access to the White House or surrounding areas.

“Of course, we had a little thing of a Black Hawk helicopter attack in broad daylight,” says Engel, citing the film’s challenges.

Weigert is also quick to point out that the no-fly zone over Washington, D.C., was exactly where they needed to be flying to get the shots they desperately needed. This meant creating nearly all of the areas around the White House and Capitol in CG for the film as well as a car chase involving a presidential limousine onto the White House lawn. “And everything had to match perfectly (to Washington, D.C.),” says Weigert. “That was definitely the biggest challenge.”