Adapting Anime Classic Ghost in the Shell for Big Screen Live-Action
Ghost in the Shell, based on the Japanese manga by Masamune Shirow, is one of the most revered anime films of all time. Cognizant of this rich legacy, the filmmakers of Hollywood’s live-action adaptation assembled a team – including Technicolor VFX, color finishing, and its VFX studio MPC – that would go to great lengths to recreate its immersive world and the cyberpunk characters that inhabit it. Under tight deadline and seamless workflow, Technicolor VFX completed 400+ shots for character alignment of star Scarlett Johansson’s superhuman cyborg look. The picture finishing team provided a wide spectrum of color and visual effects options and recreated a palate of 28 hues drawn from the original anime.
MPC, a Technicolor company
Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, along with cinematographer Jess Hall, BSC, had an ambitious vision which they set out to achieve with the film’s production-side VFX Supervisors: Guillaume Rocheron – who won an Oscar for his and MPC’s work on Life of Pi – and John Dykstra – the VFX visionary who first made a name for himself on the original Star Wars film.
- creating the film’s photo-real environment and elaborate CG flyovers;
- cyber-enhancing its hybrid CG/live-action main character (Scarlett Johansson as Major);
- and developing new shooting techniques and tools for its complex computer simulations.
A Guiding Vision
Technicolor also completed picture finishing on Ghost in the Shell, with Supervising Digital Colorist Michael Hatzer and his team of Chris Jensen, Jason Myres, Producer Bob Peishel, and Colorist Jason Fabbro (who handled the 3D version) providing a myriad of HDR deliverables for theatrical and home viewing.
“The film had a progressive workflow, from the detailed control Jess had on-set, to the wide array of color and visual effects options we gave him,” explained Hatzer. “We focused on guiding each scene into place within Jess's vision for the film and recreated a palate of 28 hues drawn from the original anime."
As with the rest of the production, their work reflects the knowledge that they were not only adapting what has been called “a groundbreaking visual masterpiece” – but adding to its legacy.
Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret… Technicolor VFX
Additional visual effects work was handled by the Technicolor VFX team led by VP VFX/Visual Effects Supervisor Doug Spilatro, who completed more than 400 shots to create and enhance Major’s distinctive superhuman cyborg look – one that would not change or be affected as a normal human being might from day-to-day.
Enormous trust was built as the team established the look with the filmmakers, and deepened as the efficiency of the workflow proved crucial in meeting the tight deadline. In particular, it enabled continuity, a consistent look and character alignment, to be maintained throughout the project, regardless of scene or shot, lighting conditions or other variables.
Said Technicolor’s Tricia Pifer, Executive Producer VFX: “We did initial testing a month prior to beginning shot work to get the look dialed in with the filmmakers. Two-thirds of our shots were approved on the first version. This is a high volume of shots, with a short turn-around time [a 9½ week schedule], that were dialed in from the start.”
Technicolor VFX also provided mattes for the finishing on 108 shots for the Technicolor India Production Services (TIPS) team in Bangalore making “modesty” adjustments to Major’s bodysuit. This further streamlined the workflow for meeting distribution requirements in various international markets.
In addition to Spilatro and Pifer, the Technicolor VFX crew/credits list for visual effects included: VFX Producer Marie Rheinschild-Jordan; Lead Senior Artist Casey Allen; Senior Artists Mark Intravartolo and Eroc Moralls; and Artists Paul Hill, Juan Alvarez, Michael Ross-Lang, Marty Taylor, and Kenny Kimble.