Lee Daniels’ The Butler debuted in theaters in mid-August to hold a commanding grasp on the box office, claiming the number one spot for three weeks. The Molecule is proud to have produced visual effects for over 200 shots that ranged from prosthetic and cosmetic fixes to green screen work. We were even invited to attend the August 5th premier at the Ziegfeld Theatre with Oprah, Lenny Kravitz, Forest Whitaker and the rest of the star-studded cast.
A period piece that spans decades, The Butler required cosmetic and wig touch-ups on many of the actors to help them age naturally through the film. Depending on the time period and character we added wrinkles, grey hair or changed an entire wardrobe item.
One of our most complicated shots required superimposing a necklace onto Oprah that had been lost in some takes – the necklace was large, reflective, and moved as she moved.
The main challenge was to refract the light on the necklace from lights in the room, while manipulating her shadow. To make a realistic digital necklace we first stabilized the existing footage so the object itself could not move, but the colors would change with the lights and shadows.
Then we developed a rig slider of light that was composed from a pallet of color schemes for all the parts of the necklace. From there we were able to pinpoint specific lighting for realistic shadows.
When it was all finished, this one scene took 6 people over 15 days to complete.
In addition to wardrobe enhancements, we also created set extensions and green screen replacements. For scenes on the cotton farm we added cotton plants to the background to make the field look fuller and larger. In a scene that takes place at night in the White House kitchen, we created the Washington monument background through the window exclusively from photographs and lighting changes. Check out our reel below to see these effects in action!
We are ecstatic to have had a role in this amazing historic film. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for?