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HomeUncategorizedHow the VFX team behind 'Free Guy' created film's video game world

How the VFX team behind ‘Free Guy’ created film’s video game world


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Visual effects were crucial in the creation of the environments and characters in 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy, a film set in the real world and in a role-playing video game, especially “Guy,” an NPC (non-player character) in the game played by Ryan Reynolds.

Swen Gillberg, whose credits include Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, says he and director Shawn Levy began their collaboration by playing a lot of video games. Finally, according to Gillberg, the film’s style is “a blend of several games and it’s definitely a heightened level,” citing Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite as examples of influences.

VFX team behind 'Free Guy' created film's video game world
VFX team behind ‘Free Guy’ created film’s video game world

Reynolds required a tremendous amount of work, including head replacement and the development of a digital stunt duplicate. “I ran Ryan through the gauntlet,” says Gillberg of the VFX’s beginning point. “That means I scanned him every which way you can conceive.” “We scanned using standard photogrammetry.” We also had him undergo a high-resolution facial scan at [USC’s] Institute for Creative Technologies.” 

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Because the plot combined the real world, gameplay, and the Free City game world, some of the design needs differed. For example, in the gameplay photos, the digital representations of Reynolds began out “very photo-real, and eventually you couldn’t tell it was games,” according to Gillberg. “We took a different approach and made it incredibly cartoony.” For the audience, that was insufficiently sympathetic. As a result, we scaled it back to something more akin to Grand Theft Auto. We used all of the scanning to make Ryan’s in-game action emotionally engaging enough for the audience to care about him.”


Dude, a heightened version of Guy, was created using face replacement, which involved collaborating with VFX studio Lola to capture Reynolds’ facial expressions and apply his likeness and movement to bodybuilder Aaron Reed’s on-set performance. “In these moments, Ryan would do his part against either Aaron or his body double,” adds Gillberg. “After that, Ryan would do Dude’s side as a reference for Aaron to learn the comedy and mannerisms.” We’d then reshoot it with Ryan and Aaron, and then do a lighting reference pass with Ryan.”


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