The best of both worlds

Marrying practical miniatures with CG served perfectly on RRR’s dramatic bridge scene.

In dramatic style, S. S. Rajamouli’s RRR stormed the world with its tale of two Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem. The film exhibited a fresh brand of visual flair in its VFX work, overseen by visual effects supervisor Srinivas Mohan, oftentimes moving into almost a surrealistic hyper physics mode, while also maintaining photorealism.

No more is this apparent than in the movie’s thrilling bridge sequence, where Raju and Bheem ultimately rescue a young boy from a dangerous train crash and fiery explosion. To bring an extra element of ‘hyper physics’ to the action–which involved significant live-action stunts and carefully crafted cinematography–Mohan engaged visual effects studio Surpreeze to work on the scene, and bring with them their unique blend of both miniature effects and digital effects.

Eighth scale train cars would be designed by Surpreeze in Denmark, manufactured in Virginia, USA, then shipped to the filming location in India at Hyderabad, where they were part of an outdoor scale bridge and river set. This miniature effects photography also included pyro elements, and was then combined with full-scale live action footage, and extensive synthetic environments and digital visual effects.

This is an excerpt from issue #10 of befores & afters magazine.

Surpreeze engaged a specialized workshop in Virginia to construct eight miniature oil train cars, given they needed to be made of heavy steel in order to survive being crashed and exposed to pyro.

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“The iron-cast trucks needed to work and be functional,” outlines Surpreeze visual effects supervisor Daniel French. “They needed to be metal as well, because we needed to do resets, and we also had to be able to use all the fire and explosions that we wanted to.”

Srinivas Mohan, Daniel French and Silas Puls.

Miniature effects supervisor Silas Puls, who sadly passed away in 2022, led the Virginia team. “He was really the one making sure the train cars worked both practically and visually on screen,” says French. Puls also traveled to the Virginia workshop to help with painting the details on the oil cars. Once completed, Surpreeze then arranged for the final miniature cars to be packed in crates and containers for shipping to India.

“We’ve become experts in shipping big containers and pallets of all sorts of stuff like that now,” says French, noting a similar past shipping experience with practical swords for Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. “Who would’ve thought that the effects company would become experts in that?”

In India, the miniature bridge set, complete with train cars, was set up for filming against bluescreen, blue sky and with water and fire elements. “We worked closely with production designer Sabu Cyril,” discusses French. “He built the miniature bridge with his team in Hyderabad. Before the building and shoot, we would bounce ideas back and forth, suggesting materials etc, and Silas would come up with solutions for pyro and wire work. A section of the bridge needed to be reset, so that was built to be easily reconstructed.”

“Meanwhile,” describes French, “we discussed all sorts of options for making the trains behave the way we wanted to. They needed to travel along the tracks and tumble out the way they did. In the end it was done by a mix of pyro for the fiery explosion, and a cable pull for the physical violent moves. It was a bit tricky to get that timing right, because you need to have the pyro going and the wire pull at the same time. We had a couple of resets on that to make that work, which is why the cars were made in metal.”

Read the full article in issue #10.

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