How Method made magical effects in Beautiful Creatures

Amongst the many magical effects of Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures – which tells the story of a family of ‘casters’ – are several scenes realized by Method Studios. We take a look at how Method, who worked with overall visual effects supervisor Joe Harkins, made these shots possible.

Watch the trailer for Beautiful Creatures.

How to turn a white room into an Autumn environment

Method turned the main entrance room to the film’s featured mansion into an Autumnal setting with CG trees and matte paintings for the distant forest. The shot began with a plates of a largely white enclosed room. “There was a lot of roto to do to get all the characters off the plate, and change the room to dark orange,” says Method visual effects supervisor Olivier Dumont. “We opened the walls and then it opened to a forest with leaves falling with trees outside as well as inside, keeping the staircase.”

How to spin a dinner table

For a family dinner shot in which the dining table and its occupants end up spinning in opposite directions, Method delivered a swirling vortex along with dinnerware debris. “The set was filmed with a gimbal,” notes Dumont, “so we had to hid the mechanism and then create the magical smoke emitting from the floor.” That was done in Houdini and was designed to match the floor’s floral designs.

How to reveal an evil caster

Sarafine, an evil caster, has possessed the body of Mrs. Lincoln (Emma Thompson). For a reveal of Sarafine in a hallway, Method roto-aimated a CG double of Mrs. Lincoln as she passes through a ‘force-field’. Other shots involved Sarafine transforming into black vine-like tendrils. For those, effects artists referenced time lapse images of growing vines before coming up with a procedural approach that could also be art-directed. “It was enhanced with a CG model of Sarafine, who would appear just in flashes,” explains Dumont. “We had to rotomatte around Emma Thompson and we used that to morph into Sarafine, then the shots were mostly done in Nuke.”

How to make a terrifying tornado

In a climactic storm sequence, Method generated imposing storm clouds, tornadoes and lightning effects. The storm supercell, in particular, had to be a mile wide and be made up of three smaller tornadoes. Again, Houdini was used for these effects with lightning bolts added as cards in Nuke. “As it was magic we didn’t have to comply with any particular physics,” says Dumont, “but to make it more scary we would keep adding detail. It’s interesting, a real tornado is actually quite smooth.”

Images © 2013 Alcon Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Method Studios.

1 thought on “How Method made magical effects in <em>Beautiful Creatures</em>”

  1. Method did a wonderful job, and their artists are some of the best in the business. Olivier did especially outstanding work under pressure. I hope Method continues to get recognized and have success. To each artist at Method here in Los Angeles that worked on Beautiful Creatures, I would like to say very simply, thank you. We are experiencing trying times in the VFX business, and it was truly a pleasure to be able to do these shots here, at home, and with such talented folks.

    I’m sure we will work together again.

    Kindest Regards,
    Joe Harkins

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