VFX on "The Man Who Laughs"

By Thierry Delobel (Eclair Group)

AFC newsletter n°226

[ English ] [ français ]

During our first meeting with Jean-Pierre Améris, I understood that this film would have a very distinctive graphic universe because of its story and historical setting and because of the visual references from films and paintings that were given to me (Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, by Tim Burton, Dracula, by Francis F. Coppola, etc.).

Because almost all shooting took place in a studio against a blue backdrop, we had to intervene on a lot of scenes (450 faked shots). While I was present during shooting and dailies, I would present mock-ups that we would make in order to check with Jean-Pierre and Gerard that our propositions were appropriate for the film’s universe. After 55 days of shooting, editing began. During that time we began research and were able to test various graphic approaches for the fabrication of a “real promotion” for Cannes.
Indeed, the first skies were too graphic and overpowered the acting. It was a good rehearsal for the special effects on the film. The frequency of the screenings and our reaction time for modifications were increased by the proximity of the set and the VFX at the same location (Portes de Paris in Vanves). We did matte paintings of the skies, prolonged decors (boats, hallways, fairgrounds, etc.), created sets (cities, a village, a château…), added sea, rain, and snow, inserted a river and a riverbank, made the crowd more numerous, etc. We also proposed the “dry for wet” method for an underwater scene that had already been used in a James Bond.

Our work with Gérard Simon, AFC, and Franck Schwartz (production designer) allowed us to optimally insert our work into the light and real sets, both during shooting and digital editing. We think that our cooperation allowed us to successfully create the visual identity for the film that the director, director of photography, and production expected.

  • On the AFC website, see images of the special effects and read what Gérard Simon wrote (in French).

(Translated from French by Alex Raiffe)