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Alkemy X Reunites with Shyamalan for ‘Split’ VFX

Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan returns to the captivating grip of "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," and "Signs" with "Split," an original film that delves into the mysterious recesses of one man's (JAMES MCAVOY) fractured, gifted mind. Here, the personality of Hedwig has emerged. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures Copyright: © 2016 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“Split” delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s (James McAvoy) fractured, gifted mind. Photo: Universal Pictures. Copyright: © 2016 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Creative content company Alkemy X provided visual effects for Universal Pictures’ new film Split, from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. From on-set VFX supervision to post-production, the job yielded a total of 74 shots in the final film, including those for the film’s climactic scenes.

Split marks Alkemy X’s fourth feature-film collaboration with Shyamalan and his Philadelphia-based production company, Blinding Edge Pictures. It most recently served as the director’s exclusive VFX company on 2015’s The Visit.

“We’ve built a great relationship with Night ever since we did a bit of VFX work on The Last Airbender [2010],” said Bob Lowery, VP, Business Development at Alkemy X. “It was an audition of sorts, and he’s chosen us as a partner on all of his films since. He’s a very talented director who knows what he wants creatively and won’t stop until he gets it, which we respect a great deal. A bit of local pride accents our passion for excellence whenever we collaborate, as Alkemy X and Night both have deep roots in the Philadelphia area—where many of his features are filmed or set.”

Alkemy X augmented the world of Split with subtle visual effects throughout, such as character work, TV/computer screen graphics and replacements, muzzle flashes and squib hits for gun fire, and some minimal additional CG work and paint cleanup. Alkemy X was also tasked with physically embellishing the pivotal 24th personality in Split, scrutinizing details such as bone and vein structure, and muscle movements.

“Enhancing James’ incredible performance was definitely the most creative aspect of this project for our team,” said Edwardo Mendez, Alkemy X senior VFX supervisor. “It required intensive motion tracking on set—and several different techniques: 3D object tracking, camera tracking, planar tracking, and Nuke’s smart vector tracking. Ultimately, achieving the resulting life-like look was a concerted effort across several VFX departments, including look development, 3D modeling and texture, 2D paint and a lot of ‘comp love’ to ensure our effects seamlessly lived in this world.”

Including its presence on the Split live-action set, Alkemy X worked on the film over the course of six months—with several VFX deliveries—as Shyamalan was in post-production on the film. “A lot of the work upfront was look development and temp, which helped Night visualize how Alkemy X could help bring his brilliantly intriguing script to life,” concluded Mendez. “To see it all culminate in a film that has captivated audiences has been a rewarding experience.”

January 30, 2017