Apple Original Films’ post-apocalyptic “Finch,” starring Tom Hanks and dropping Nov. 5 on Apple TV Plus, avoids the familiar sights of zombies and aliens. Instead, it’s a story of a man who survives in a bunker with his dog, Goodyear. When he learns he has a terminal illness, he devises a plan to build an AI robot to care for the pup once he’s gone.
VFX supervisor Scott Stokdyk and his team were called on to build the droid, named Jeff. He’s the only other voice in the film besides Hanks, and comes to develop a soul.
Stokdyk had actor Caleb Landry Jones dress in a special suit complete with a mask as well as practical elements like the robot’s outer arms and gloves. “We used the latest motion capture technology that doesn’t rely on optical cameras,” he explains. “That allowed us to have gyroscopic sensors that can be underneath clothing.” When Jeff’s other robot elements were added later, Stokdyk could choose which would be real and which would be added in CGI.
As Jeff starts to learn from Finch, he evolves, becoming almost human-looking in his movements. Stokdyk and his team looked for aspects of LandryJones’ acting as subtle as the tiny movement of an eyelid, aiming to bring the robot to a level where audiences would feel for it emotionally. Stokdyk explains: “Within any given shot, it was always about being true to Caleb’s performance and bringing [out] other accents of things, such as his facial performance that connects you to the soul of the character.”