Midway through filming Furious 7, the year’s second highest-grossing movie, Paul Walker was killed in an automobile accident. But the furiousness must go on, and thanks to some computer wizardry and Walker’s brothers, the film was completed with minimal rewrites. The final product is pretty flawless — there’s no comically bad CGI, and if you didn’t know what happened to Walker, you wouldn’t be able to tell based on what’s on screen.
Here’s how the Peter Jackson-founded Weta Digital pulled it off:
Weta ended up doing a whopping 350 shots, most of them involving Walker’s character… Unlike the motion-capture work that Weta had done on earlier films, there were no scans of Walker to create a digital double. So the team went through old footage, building a reference library of Walker as Brian O’Conner by using outtakes from Furious 7 and previous films in the franchise. But those moments had been filmed in one lighting environment and the Weta team “essentially had to relight his performance” digitally for each new scene, said Letteri. (Via)
The brothers, Cody and Caleb, along with actor John Brotherton, were motion-captured by Meta, and “then reapplied [to the] Walker digital models they had created.” The action scenes weren’t the hard ones to doctor; it was the small, nuanced stuff, like Walker’s facial features, that took forever.
In the end, everyone was pleased with the results. Technology is changing so quickly, could this have been accomplished five years ago? [Joe Letteri, Weta Digital senior VFX supervisor] exhales briefly and says, “No. It was barely possible last year when we did it.” (Via)
Here’s an impressive collection of “Paul Walker Furious 7 VFX shots.”