With a modest budget of just $US60 million for a VFX-intensive film, the filmmakers of Priest had to be creative. With 750 VFX shots in total, about a dozen companies were employed to help bring the dark vampire tale to life.

Creative Cartel served as the VFX head on the production, while other facilities included Tippett Studio, Spin VFX, Spy Post and Melbourne-based Iloura. The latter’s recent credits include Killer Elite, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Sanctum and The Pacific.

Iloura’s work on Priest – essentially a “911 stress call” – commenced about 18 months ago. The company employed a team of up to 15 to produce about 60 shots over a two-month period.

The Scott Stewart-directed project, shot on anamorphic film with rare Panasonic C-series lenses, tells the story of a battle-hardened supernatural priest who embarks on a perilous quest to save his niece from an army of vampires.

VFX producer Ineke Majoor said that while it wasn’t a complex project, it had its challenges with compositing and integrating assets into the plates.

Iloura’s main sequence in the post-apocalyptic action/horror film – which was converted to 3D – was the rooftop “Night Train” fight scene out in the desert. Assets – such as the digital train – were provided but expanded upon by Iloura.

“We did a lot of cleanup – we did a lot of hours of physically cutting the actors out of the plates and preparing them to go into our scene,” VFX supervisor Glenn Melenhorst said.

“Then during the train scene they obviously fought, they jumped from carriage to carriage, so we had to do a bit of choreography.”

This choreography was in terms of positioning on the train and where background ‘filler’ would be seen – such as windmills – which Iloura also created. This was on top of creating the digital dust, dirt, debris and smoke.

“We had a whole lot of photography done of the actual desert landscape and the distant hills and we had to generate 360-degree live mattes for that with different sort of textures of dirt swinging past and the track and all that sort of stuff.”

The team had daily reviews via phone/skype/cineSync with VFX supervisor Jonathan Rothbart, who co-founded effects house The Orphanage with Stewart.

Making up Iloura’s software toolkit on the film included 3ds Max, Maya, Nuke and various in-house tools.

The team at Iloura is now hard at work on helping bring Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s Ted to the screen. The company will deliver more than 250 shots around March/April. The film revolves around a man (Mark Wahlberg) whose childhood teddy bear (McFarlane) comes to life.

Melenhorst said the team was getting a lot of laughs working on the film, which is currently set for a July release.

After lengthy delays, Priest was finally released in theatres on August 25 last year. It grossed $693,055 at the Australian box office and $US78.4 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. It was released on DVD and Blu-Ray late last year.

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