The Embassy Re-Teams with Director Neill Blomkamp on 'District 9'

August 31, 2009 11:39 pm

Tags: 3D, Autodesk, District 9, Renderosity, Shake, Softimage

Climactic Battle Sequence and Elaborate Exo-Suit Contributed by The Embassy Team

Vancouver, BC, Canada (August 24, 2009)-The Embassy Visual Effects dove deep into alien territory with high impact effects for the Sony Pictures blockbuster District 9, which opened at No. 1 in its opening weekend and has currently grossed over $73M (estimated) at the U.S. domestic box office. The film was co-written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, who was an original founding partner of The Embassy Visual Effects prior to embarking on a full-time film-directing career.


Having just come off of completing the Mark 1 sequence for Iron Man, the Exo-suit scene in "District 9" was a perfect fit for boutique facility The Embassy. The Exo-suit is a very sophisticated piece of alien weaponry, essentially a larger-than-life mechanized suit of armor controlled by its wearer. The Embassy co-founder Winston Helgason spent one month on set in Johannesburg, South Africa supervising the sequence shoot.


The Embassy key-frame animated, rendered, and composited the Exo-suit for seamless scene integration. In total, The Embassy worked on just over 100 shots, mostly in the film's 12-minute climactic battle sequence. The company also created small lobster-like alien creatures used by both the Aliens and Humans in a type of cockfight.


The Exo-suit sequence was shot primarily with RED Cameras, all handheld, so the Embassy team tracked and dropped the robot-like suit into the plates and used HDR lighting to match the hues on set. The CG in the scene was animated and rendered in Autodesk Softimage and composited using Shake.


The scene is very action-oriented and involved a lot of interaction between the CG Exo-suit with actors and set pieces. "This was a very complex sequence to work on. There were soldiers shooting, and each shot has composited bullet hits, dust on the ground for the suit's feet movement, and smoke added into the environment on top of the hero CG," said Helgason.


"This was our first time working with RED Camera footage for a feature, and while there were distinct advantages, such as no film grain and the ability to generate 4K versions of plates in-house, we were very mindful of the rolling shutter issues especially with the heavy compositing involved in reconstructing background plates," explained Supervising Compositor Stephen Pepper.


There was a lot of collaboration on this sequence amongst facilities, as extensive visual effects work was completed both at Image Engine in Vancouver and WETA in New Zealand, and there were assets from both facilities integrated into the final composite of the Exo-suit battle.

About "District 9"

Over twenty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa's District 9 as the world's nations argued over what to do with them.

Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens' welfare ­ they will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens' awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.

The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable ­ he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.

"District 9" is directed by Neill Blomkamp. The screenplay is by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell. The film is produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham.

About The Embassy Visual Effects

The Embassy Visual Effects, Inc. is based in Vancouver, BC, Canada and is best known for its photo-real visual effects work for the film "Iron Man", and high profile commercial projects for clients including Nike, Citroen, Verizon, Volkswagen and more. The boutique facility specializes in visual effects for commercials and feature film that blend anything from futuristic robots to precocious lizards seamlessly into real world environments. For more information, visit

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Article Comments

DarwinsMishap ( posted at 9:50AM Thu, 03 September 2009

This was an awesome movie- Great work here in everything!!!

IO4 ( posted at 10:19AM Thu, 03 September 2009

The film trailer looks fantastic, so it's great to read a little more about the film here at Rendro:)

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