September 21, 2021

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VFX artists recall the creation of the World Trade Center in the post-9/11 world

3 min read

// Some lasting images of the 11 attacks were photos before and after the World Trade Center, with towering towers protruding nicely from downtown before falling to the ground.

For movies and TV shows set in the pre-11/11 world, VFX artists are often tasked with rebuilding that skyline. The artists have plenty to take pictures of, as the buildings were well documented with photographs, videos and footage that helped them reliably and accurately recreate the Twin Towers, often in laborious detail.

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the two VFX artists discussed how they rebuilt the Twin Towers for the movie “United 93” and FX’s “Pose”.

“United 93” directed by Paul Greengrass

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DNEG recreates New York’s skyline and weather in visual effects
Paramount Pictures Corporation, courtesy of DNEG

DNEG Paul Greengrass’s ‘United 93.’ Has helped to create some of the most dynamic visual effects. No other single event has been so extensively documented, so it was DNEG’s responsibility to fully ensure their entertainment and destruction in the Lower Manhattan area.

DNEG’s work includes two main phases; Before and after the fall which means building towers and complexes, many buildings around them and the surrounding streets, then adding dynamic effects like burning smoke, reading paper and debris.

The second step was after the collapse, which involved the construction of Ground Zero in CG with debris, smoke and dust.

Peter Chiang, who worked as a visual effects supervisor in the 200’s film, explained that technology for capturing skylines like leader and drone technology was not readily available. “The Twin Towers were something we needed to reproduce accurately and geographically,” Chiang said.

Chiang and the team climbed onto the jetty and relied on photos to help recreate the skyline. They also had to consider the bright sunny morning of that lucky day. “We were shooting in England and it was raining. That footage of Leroy (Gary Comic) when he pre-checks her while flying around. She’s just in the rain. Everything is rebuilt. We had to build CG planes, cars and all the ancillary vehicles that flew around the airport.

The Maya software was used to create everything in 3D. The company has delivered 5,050 shots in six weeks, working with other vendors to show small VFX shots from the plane and luggage falling as the plane descends. Recalling the pressure of tough shifts, Chiang said, “Our normal shifts are after 24-22 weeks. There were many additions that are expected to disappear today so you believe you are in the story.

“Pose” FX

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Previous: NF Skyline As seen now, before recreating the VFX skyline
FX

Located in New York and based on the city’s ballroom drag scene, “Pose” took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Anyone visiting New York wants to see the Statue of Liberty or Times Square,” said co-producer, writer and director Steven Canals. It seemed important to us that these buildings would be present and would represent New York at our show.The Twin Towers were connected via VFX. Brian Kubovic, head of Studio Atlanta and a senior visual effects supervisor at Fuse FX, said: We were able to combine the resources of the Twin Towers to build New York in the 1980s and 1990s. Every shot featuring the Twin Towers reminds us of where we were that day for our team. “

“Pose ‘is a reflection of New York and what it means for our character, so respecting the city’s heritage was important to us in both descriptive and photographic terms.”

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Next: FuseFX recreates iconic skyline for “pose” background view
FX

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