First contacted as a side vendor on the film, Los Angeles-based Look! Effects ultimately contributed more than 100 VFX shots to The Life Aquatic. Co-owner and producer Mark Driscoll and visual effects supervisor Henrik Fett collaborated with lead VFX supervisor Jeremy Dawson and director Wes Anderson to do everything from tattoo removal to more complex work such as adding virtual blood and smoke to a pivotal scene featuring actors Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.
Fett explains the problems of adding blood when a character is in the water: "You don’t see just a flat color patch [of blood] appearing and disappearing – it really interacts with the dynamic of the water as well as the reflection and refraction of the clothing that disappears under the water."
The characters were rotoscoped in the water completely, so that Fett could do a combination of color-correction and key-pulling on the parts of clothing to be drenched in blood. In Flame, he used separated areas and color-corrected them, then laid the shadow areas and the highlights, as well as the reflectivity of the water, back onto the elements that were influenced.
Another problem occurred during a complicated Steadicam sequence shot in a swamp in the rain. "A lot of water got caught in the camera housing," says Fett. "Apparently that happens quite often. The rain would collect on the umbrella hanging above the Steadicam operator and rush off in huge sheets. It was a total nightmare."
Editorial tried cutting around the shots where the rain was distracting, but there were too many areas. Look! Effects recreated the background in those frames and tracked the shots in Flame. "The end result is beautiful," says Fett.