The Walk, from director Robert Zemeckis, tells the true story of a wire walker, Philippe Petit, who illegally walked a high wire between the Twin Towers. VFX were used to bring back a long-gone time and place: 1974 New York and its World Trade Center Towers, and helped actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to expertly walk the wire. We wanted audiences to feel Philippe’s experience; to be a part of it physically and emotionally.
Months were spent crafting the World Trade Center Towers, so that they would feel truly hand-built. To replicate their chameleon-like qualities, which were a factor of their reflectivity, every shot needed its surrounding environment to be present in 360-degrees. The tower facades were then shaded using the GGX “micro-facet" BRDF, which replicated thousands of tiny bumps in every square meter of their anodized aluminum skin.
28 minutes of The Walk takes place on or between the rooftops of the Twin Towers. Long, sweeping camera moves, constantly evolving lighting and weather conditions, and the need for total period accuracy necessitated an incredibly detailed full-CG build. Our team blurred traditional lines between 2D and 3D departments, using Nuke to art direct the city’s haze, place moving smoke stacks on buildings, and create crowds on the ground and flocks of birds in the air.
We hope audiences see The Walk, and its use of visual effects, as a positive, immersive experience; one that reminds them how seeing a film in theaters can inspire emotion, make their palms sweat, and feel like the impossible is possible.