How Careful Previs and VFX Work Enhanced the Look of Practical Effects from the Shoot

The Jack Bauer Power Hour will return! Fox made the point clear during last weekend's Super Bowl, with a series of teasers leading up to a :45 spot that showed 24 series regulars Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chloe O'Brian (Mary-Lynn Rajskub) making their way toward the camera through flaming wreckage at a London intersection. Culver City, CA, VFX house Zoic Studios ramped up the destruction, adding explosions, damage to buildings and vehicles, and more to the shot. Directed by Norry Niven of production company Three (One) O, the trailer gave 24 fans a first look at the upcoming 12-episode run of 24: Live Another Day. StudioDaily asked Zoic on-set VFX supervisor Mark Stetson about the project.

StudioDaily: What was the timeline like for the project?

Mark Stetson: The entire project was about three and a half weeks for Zoic. Chris Jones, Gina Fiore and Barbara Genicoff had their first conversation with Fox Special Ops on January 7. Chris Jones kicked off previs on January 12, and I went to London as on-set VFX Supervisor on January 18. The shoot was on January 22. Zoic delivered the final spot for the Super Bowl on Thursday, January 30. 

What was your collaboration with Fox like?

Fox VP/Creative Director/Writer/Producer Julio Cabral and VP of Production Golareh Safarian booked Elaine Sibert and Norry Niven of Three (One) O to produce and direct the live action. Time was of the essence and everyone knew it. This was a very professional, experienced and creative crew. It was a pleasure to work with them on set. Zoic had worked with this team before, and it was a very efficient group moving forward. Julio and Norry took the previs work very seriously, rapidly turning around notes and understanding why the tech vis was as important as the creative vis.

Did they know exactly what they wanted from square one? 

Yes. Golareh and Julio brought us a detailed treatment that Norry had prepared, pitching the spot as one continuous pull-back shot. This became the basis for the previs. Two previs artists, Chad Finnerty and Chris Smith, were assigned to the shot. Julio and Norry's notes were specific and consistent, and they generally addressed timing and camera motion. So it moved forward quickly and efficiently. As the location was locked, Chris adapted the previs to the true architecture of the shooting location.

Talk about what happened on set. What input did Zoic have during the shoot?

Zoic's main input actually came before we arrived on set. Norry had specified the Super Techno Crane for the shot and Zoic had designed the previs around the movement envelope of that gear. By keeping the previs strictly accurate to the camera equipment's movement envelope, and to the physical layout of the location, blocking the elements on site was a relatively easy process (although Norry did have the riggers moving the cab around for a while). So Zoic's best input was in good prep. Then I just did my best to gather stills reference, video reference, HDRIs, and measurements from the set so we could start our tracking and roto efforts immediately, without wasting any time.

Are any of the FX (explosions, dust, smoke, sparks) practical or is everything CG?

Fox Special Ops and Three (One) O had hired a local production services company in London to run production. The art department and special effects crew provided on-set smoke, sparks, and an explosion in-shot that employed an air mortar filled with dust, debris and silicone "shattered glass." Zoic then enhanced the footage with a CG smoke column rising up in the background, CG explosion elements, debris enhancements, interactive light on Jack Bauer's face from the gunfire, and many other polishing tweaks and paint corrections throughout the shot. One unexpected thing that came up in our short five-day post was the rooftop taxi sign lying on the pavement, with its lights dying out as the camera pulls back. This was a CG element, as the practical prop element had failed to light up on the day and was removed from the scene.

What was the single toughest element to execute and why?

Because of the very short post schedule, Chris Jones chose to shoot some practical explosion elements to integrate with the CG explosion development, both to expand and enhance the live-action explosion. Zoic recruited Joel Hynek to come in and shoot explosion elements on January 29, one day before delivery. Zoic's producer Jaimie Lee Finnerty worked with Joel to set up the shoot right in Zoic's parking lot. He created an amazing variety of pyro elements, with varying energy, that really made the difference in the explosion from set with CG elements for volume and Joel's pyro elements for texture, energy and detail to create an explosion that sustains its looks and energy over the beat we all envisioned.

24: Live Another Day debuts May 5 on Fox.


Client: Fox Broadcasting Company
Title: “Street Chaos” :45

Chief Operations Officer: Joe Earley
SVP On-Air Promo: Scott Edwards
VP/Creative Director: Julio Cabral
VP of Design: Justin Owens
Writer: Julio Cabral
VP of Production: Golareh Safarian
Producer: Julio Cabral
Design Director: Ian MacRitchie
Production Company: Three (One) O, Los Angeles
Director: Norry Niven
Executive Producer: Elaine Sibert
Production Services: Generator Films, LTD, London, UK
Producer: Kate Arton
Line Producer: Laura Ruddock
Production Managers: Micki Pearlman, Laura Jenkins
Production Designer: Jon Bunker

Visual Effects: Zoic Studios
Executive Creative Director: Chris Jones
Head of Production: Barbara Genicoff
Executive Producer: Gina Fiore
Producer: Jaimie Lee Finnerty
Post Production Coordinator: Chelsea Miller
On Set VFX Supervisor: Mark Stetson
Lead Flame: Simon Scott
3D Supervisor: Michael Kirylo
2D Supervisor/Compositing Supervisor: Andrew Bardusk
Lighting: Scott Rosecrans
Modelers: Michael Kirylo, Scott Rosecrans
Previz: Chris Smith, Chad Finnerty
Tracking Lead: Caleb Pennypacker
Compositor: Fumi Mashimo
Roto/Paint: Todd Groves, Erik Carlson, Wes Heo