In Creed II, directed by Steven Caple Jr. from a script by Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) returns to the ring to take on a menacing opponent Viktor Drago (Romanian boxer Florian Munteanu).
As lead VFX house, the majority of MR. X’s work would be on the feature’s intense boxing matches. Their primary objective was to bring scope to the project – including numerous shots with CGI crowd duplication – ultimately making 600 extras on a soundstage in Philadelphia look like 80,000 boxing fans at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow for the climactic finale.
MR. X has a long working relationship with MGM, the studio behind Creed II. The feature brought together again MR. X VFX Producer Jo Hughes and VFX Supervisor Eric Robinson with MGM’s Head of Visual Effects Dean Wright and independent VFX Producer and Supervisor Crystal Dowd. The latter had experienced Robinson’s expertise in crowd duplication and crowd recreation while working on football stadium shots for The Best Man Holiday (2013). Wright was familiar with Hughes work – CG crowds and set extensions, etc. – on the chariot races from Ben-Hur (2016).
Though the MR. X team got involved just a few weeks before the start of photography, they hit the ground running – with Robinson jumping on a plane to Philadelphia so he could be on-set for all of the key fight sequences. From there the team would be involved through to the last days of post-production, addressing any last-minute edits or shots turned over late in the process and delivering them all within the same timeline.
“Boxing sequences present some fun, unique challenges,” said Robinson. “Things like punch augmentation, where you have to make the connection between boxing glove and face more believable. Not to mention the work we did with aerial gore, spit, and sweat. For example, the actors would take a mouthful of water right before a take and then let loose during filming. If the stream of water wasn’t quite right, we could selectively tone it down or add more in. Or we could even color correct it to look like drops of blood, for a more impactful looking hit.”
Another challenge for the filmmakers was keeping the climactic boxing match fresh as it went nine rounds. This required a different editorial style for each round so that it wouldn’t become repetitive, and would instead keep the audience in suspense as the fight progressed. The techniques MR. X used for crowd duplication allowed for great flexibility with the different requests for framing and other changes, while maintaining a consistent look even as the style changed from round to round.
“A big part of our success on this feature was the Bangalore team,” said Robinson, citing the volume of work they handled and the growing collaboration between the wider MR. X global team. “With every project we do, their contribution grows leaps and bounds. There’s a great trust and commitment there that’s very rewarding – and it shows in the work we do.”
“We had a really great experience on this feature because of the great collaboration of the people working on it,” added Hughes, “from Dean and Crystal and their teams on the production side, to the team at MR. X in Toronto and in Bangalore. As lead vendor on the feature, we were able to contribute our expertise and share whatever knowledge we had to make this the best version of the film possible. At the end of the day, we all want to make beautiful images that support the story being told.”
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