Union Grow CG Cannabis for The Gentlemen

Member News  |  14 May 2020

Union VFX provided invisible visual effects work in writer/director Guy Ritchie’s action-filled crime comedy film, The Gentlemen starring Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Grant.

The Gentlemen follows American ex-pat Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) who owns a highly profitable marijuana empire in London – but when word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business forever it triggers plots, schemes, bribery and blackmail in an attempt to steal his domain out from under him.

The most complex effects Union VFX were tasked with in their work on writer/director Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen was the creation of one of Mickey Pearson’s huge subterranean marijuana farms, and the car crash sequence in which the character speeds to rescue his wife.

To create a believable, underground ‘skunk’ farm of this enormous scale, the Union team had to take a completely 3D approach due to the parallax of the shots. 

The practical set gave Union the first few rows of plant-filled tables, which helped the team work on extending the quantity further back from the foreground. Particular attention had to be paid to randomising the placement of the tables and plants, as they would have looked fake if arranged too symmetrically.

The team also added a few CG gardeners in the distance tending to the plants, and a lot of CG animated fans to provide some more movement and interest, giving more depth and making the screen look more believable.

The car crash sequence was a complex task to perfect and make believable, so in order to give themselves the best kit of parts possible, the Union team went to the location several times.  Firstly, to do photogrammetry of the T-junction where the crash occurs, which enabled the team to re-create it in 3D back at Union before adding the CG truck.

On another occasion, VFX Supervisor James Etherington-Sparks returned to the location at 6am on a Saturday morning with 2D Lead Iain Reid, and Etherington reenacted the driving as closely as possible to the principal photography, with Reid filming from the passenger seat with one of Union’s Blackmagic cameras.

The team then tracked the camera shake from that shoot onto the green screens from the main shoot back at Union to great effect – particularly helping with the movement when Matthew McConaughey’s character slams his foot onto the break before the truck makes contact.

The Union team also filmed plates at the location with Lester Dunton from Dunton Projection FX, using a rig of 3 Alexas which were composited. Glass elements, light and reflections were also added to finish the sequence.

Union were also involved in stylising ‘The Toddler’s’ YouTube fight video from the skunk farm adding motion graphics, titles, freeze frame and zoom up effects.  The team did further motion graphics work creating the map of the skunk farm sites, and titles for the Hong Kong racing coverage.

Additionally, the team provided VFX work on placing Hugh Grant in the Emirates Stadium stand scene, from which he is seen spying on the corporate box through a long lens. The Union team filmed plates and then comped in footage of the character shot on green screen adding twitchy camera movements and a vignette effect.

As you’d expect from a Guy Ritchie gangster film Union also added a fair number of muzzle flashes and blood splats and removed squib lines – one particular scene required the team to comp a character being run over by a train after being thrown off a bridge.

View Union’s VFX breakdown of their work on The Gentlemen below:

Find out more about Union at unionvfx.com

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