Case Study

Reality, Enhanced

Brotherhood Studios strategically multiplied the production value of their film “Last Three Days” through digital set extensions and other “invisible” FX.


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Last Three Days

Written & Directed by Brian Ulrich


“How did you make your film look like it cost millions of dollars to produce?” That’s the question the filmmakers at Brotherhood Studios have been asked repeatedly since their feature debut, “Last Three Days.” Qualifying for SAG’s Ultra Low Budget pay scale (under $300,000), the film production was able to leverage every dollar it spent, focusing on top-notch talent and a unique story, told with a visionary scope that took full advantage of visual effects. The result is a gritty neo-noir thriller that defies its humble resources.

As a modern-day thriller, the real-world setting of “Last Three Days” required visual effects that would be more “invisible” and less attention-getting, save for a few FX related to weaponry. Muzzle flashes, shell casings, impact debris, flesh wounds and lighting interaction all had to be generated and composited seamlessly into the scene. Modern-day technology also had to be augmented for clarity and detail. iPhone screens and watch faces were recreated and tracked back into live-action plates to bring out important details relevant to the plot. Even items as ubiquitous as vehicle license plates were added digitally (to avoid clearance issues, fictional license plate numbers were created specifically for the film).

A World Without Ceilings. Several key sequences in the film take place in a hospital building and Emergency Room. For those scenes the production took place on a standing modular hospital set in Southern California, however the physical location was limited and did not have an actual ceiling. Rather than compromise on their shot choices, Director Brian Ulrich and Director of Photography Chris Haggerty framed their scenes to favor the action and style most befitting of the story, which sometimes would reveal the edges of the physical set. So Some Guy in Anaheim was tasked with tracking in digital ceilings to complete the set, rotoscoping around the actors and matching lighting.

Hospital exteriors utilized a live-action medical building, but were digitally “re-dressed” to serve as the fictional “George Bailey Memorial Hospital” (in an homage to the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was also featured in the story). For a special premiere screening of the film, a 3D aerial shot of the hospital was digitally added to a live-action plate, and a digital 3D Chevy Camaro was animated and composited for action continuity. Other exteriors throughout the film required industrial or cityscape backdrops to be composited.

Tick Tock. At the film’s conclusion, Writer/Director Brian Ulrich wanted to integrate a visual review of the film’s basic story within the credits, so he worked closely with Some Guy in Anaheim to create an animated narrative, carefully timed to the original song “Tick Tock,” written and performed by The Rigs.

VFX Tasks:

  • 2.5D matte paintings and 3D digital set extensions
  • 3D matchmoving
  • Rotoscoping & Digital Touchup FX to props, vehicle reflections and modified set elements.
  • Muzzle flash compositing, 3D bullet shell casings, blood squibs and weapon’s fire lighting Fx
  • Title design and End Credits Motion Graphics sequences

VFX Highlights from Last Three Days

It's a Wonderful Life

With thematic similarities to the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the filmmakers integrated subtle homages to that story. The bar visited by Jack and his co-workers gets its name and digitally-created signage directly from the 1946 film, and the hospital where Beth works is named in honor of Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey. The fictional hospital’s branding integrates the initials “GB” into the shape of an angel’s wings, complete with a halo on top.

Roll Credits!

To punctuate the director’s vision, Some Guy in Anaheim animated a stylistic credit sequence that recounted major plot points from the film, and an original song, “Tick Tock,” was written and performed by The Rigs.

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