Technicolor teams at MR. X and MPC deliver seamless VFX for the acclaimed director’s latest feature.
Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods, directed and co-written by Academy Award winner Spike Lee, follows four African American Vietnam War veterans as they return to their former battlefield decades later to find the remains of their fallen squad leader — and the stash of gold buried with him.
The feature film from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Lee’s production company, was shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, and features VFX from Technicolor’s MR. X as well as Technicolor’s MPC. Da 5 Bloods is deeply rooted in reality, with flashbacks to the war shot on 16mm to signify a change in era, and the same actors playing younger versions of themselves without prosthetics or VFX enhancements.
As lead vendor, MR. X’s VFX Supervisor James Cooper joined Da 5 Bloods VFX Supervisor Randall Balsmeyer on set in Thailand for several weeks over the three-month shoot. Cooper then teamed with MR. X VFX Producer Adnan Ahmed back in Toronto and both oversaw 40 artists across the Montreal, Toronto and Bangalore studios to deliver 118 VFX shots for the film.
“Spike Lee’s first priority was for the VFX to serve the story, not the other way around. He didn’t want anything to distract from the reality built on screen. MR. X adopted this principle when building our VFX shots in service of the photography of the film,” says Ahmed.
One of the most challenging assets to build was the CG 1971 Vietnam era Huey helicopter that carries the original Bloods crew and crashes violently after being shot down by Viet Cong soldiers. MR. X worked closely with Balsmeyer and Sigel on this and other compelling shots; also Spike Lee for the first time, and editor Adam Gough for the second time after Netflix’s Roma.
Balsmeyer reached out to MPC once filming had finished. Leveraging MPC’s global footprint, the MPC VFX team, led by David Piombino, was able to scale up and accommodate the high volume of shots required, including a large number of period accurate landscapes, gunshots, and green screen composite work.
MPC’s New York studio has developed a longform episodic pipeline that enables the team to deliver high-style, feature-quality effects at the rapid pace more often seen when making advertising commercials. The MPC team leveraged and expanded upon this capability for their feature work with Balsmeyer, Sigel and Spike Lee.
About the experience of working with Spike Lee, Piombino says: “He is an absolute professional who uses VFX as a tool to tell the story but not be the story. He knew exactly what he needed from us. Our job was done when it looked like we never did anything.”
Da 5 Bloods is streaming now on Netflix.