||While Real Steel is garnering excellent reviews based on its powerful story and engaging characters, it is the visual spectacle of massive robots in the boxing ring that make for some of the movie’s most rousing scenes. Those boxing matches were conceived, planned and executed using an innovative process that gave the filmmakers unprecedented creative freedom and efficiency by taking virtual production out of the studio and bringing it into real-world settings.
Director Shawn Levy wanted the boxing matches between eight-foot tall CG robots to feel truly visceral and natural, so he called on Digital Domain and visual effects supervisor Erik Nash to make it so. The team designed a virtual production workflow that allowed Levy to direct CG characters as if they were actually present on set – in the boxing rings where background plates were shot – just like he would shoot any other scene with human actors.
To achieve this goal, all fight sequences were choreographed and motion-captured on a stage in Los Angeles long before principal photography. Then, the CG characters created from those sessions were placed in virtual environments that matched the actual Detroit locations, for use within the Simul-Cam system made famous on Avatar.
This process enabled Levy and director of photography Mauro Fiore to “see” fighting robots on the Simul-Cam monitor during principal photography in Detroit, and follow the action as they shot each robot fight even though to everyone else on set it appeared they were filming an empty boxing ring. The CG action was always organically framed with camera moves that felt true because they were captured in the moment at real locations. Digital Domain’s collaboration with Giant Studios here takes virtual production to a whole new level.