Union’s seamless VFX for Emerald Fennell’s decadent thriller Saltburn

Member News  |  21 March 2024

The studio delivered VFX work on the psychological drama produced and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell for Amazon MGM Studios.

Saltburn © 2023 Courtesy of Amazon Prime MGM

This beautifully wicked tale of privilege and desire had its international premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival and the film stars Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver and Carey Mulligan. Set in England in the mid-2000s, Saltburn is the story of a young university student, played by Keoghan, who becomes obsessed with his wealthy schoolmate, who subsequently invites him to spend the summer at his eccentric family’s estate.

Saltburn © 2023 Courtesy of Amazon Prime MGM

The VFX required for the film were subtle, seamless and invisibly integrated to help tell the story. Led by VFX Supervisor Dillan Nicholls, the team created numerous digital doubles, a pivotal CG champagne bottle, CG rain, multiple environments and stunning landscape enhancements.

A key scene of the film takes place in a huge maze in the garden of a stately home. Four of the main characters run along different paths through the maze, emerging at the centre to discover one of the many twists and turns sprinkled throughout the story.

The key shot in this sequence is a top-down drone view of the maze which required a 2.5D DMP environment with a full CG build of the maze hedge and digidoubles to replace the main cast, complete with accurate costumes, hair and so on. The digidoubles had to navigate through the maze and the CG shot had to cut seamlessly into the following in-camera shot of them arriving at the centre.

Dillan Nicholls, VFX Supervisor at Union VFX
Saltburn © 2023 Courtesy of Amazon Prime MGM

Saltburn is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video worldwide. The film picked up several award nominations, including five BAFTA nominations (Outstanding British Film; Leading Actor – Barry Keoghan; Supporting Actress – Rosamund Pike; Supporting Actor – Jacob Elordi; Original Score – Anthony Willis); three Critics Choice Awards (Best Picture; Best Production Design – Charlotte Dirickx, Suzie Davies; Best Cinematography – Linus Sandgren); and two Golden Globes (Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture – Rosamund Pike; Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama – Barry Keoghan).

Union recently won the BAFTA for Special Visual Effects for their work on Poor Things. Currently released and upcoming projects include Slow Horses (Apple), All Of Us Strangers (Searchlight), The Regime (HBO) and The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Sky).

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