When VFX helps to tell a story
Rescue Me’s second to last episode of season 5 aired last Tuesday. There was a scene of the firefighters trying to talk down a suicidal bridge-jumper. In the end, the Ponzi Scheme victim jumps off the bridge. It wasn’t safe to get the shot through the lens, so we helped out.
The production crew of Rescue Me created an on location set-build of the edge of the bridge. Most of the dialogue takes place on this fake railing a safe distance from the actual edge; however, there was one angle that required us to make the railing appear closer to the edge.
The shots looking down at the man falling into the water required a second shoot day in the studio. First they shot the actors scrambling at the edge over a bluescreen, then they shot a stunt-double taking a spectacular backwards dive into a giant blue air-bag (they even got two takes). The blue bag was keyed out and replaced with a water and splash plate, which were shot during the daytime- requiring us to do some color correction in the comp to make it appear as if were night.
Interestingly enough, the splash plate, shot in Long Island City, was captured by throwing a black garbage bag, with a giant piece of ice inside it, into the river. Due to environmental concerns, a string had to be tied to the bag so that it could be reeled back up. So while filming the plate, we had to keep in mind that it would require rig removal and ultimately bag removal. Similarly, actor Larenz Tate, the firefighter who dives over the railing to try and save the jumper, had to be secured with wires- which also had to be removed.
Despite the simplicity of the breakdown above, there were several small challenges faced along the way. One of the more notable ones was an issue with the firefighter’s jacket the jumper is holding while he falls. As the stunt man hit the bag, the jacket would became engulfed by blue. To solve the problem we took a still of the jacket which was then animated to float on the water, after the jumper goes under, and drift with the current of the water.
We also spent some time animating the water engulfing the man as he falls in. His legs were pointed up so we had to submerge his body first and then animate the matte traveling up his legs.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s season finale- you won’t be disappointed!