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VFX breakdown of creation of Paul Walker for Furious 7

Published on April 15, 2015, by in Animation, VFX.

Last week, the Fast & Furious franchise released its latest installation – Furious 7. Much awaited by industry and fans alike, the film faced its biggest challenge when its lead actor, Paul Walker died in a car accident. But the makers made turned this film into homage to Walker & his performance in the previous editions of the franchise. In this post we take a look at the cutting edge visual effects techniques that made it possible to keep Paul Walker’s character in the movie while still giving him a proper send off.

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Paul Walker had only about completed half the scenes for the movie when his untimely demise left the producers in a problem. They were forced to delay the release of the movie so that they could construct the story around what they had already shot. In order to bring back Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker’s character), the filmmakers used a variety of tricks. Top of the list were his brothers, Cody & Caleb Walker. The Walker brothers served as Paul’s body doubles in the movie. Thanks to genetics, they were able to capture his mannerisms & physical performance. Cody & Caleb’s faces were digitally mapped, using software from Peter Jackson’s visual effects firm, Weta Digital. Weta Digital previously has created realistic effects for Hollywood hits like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and, the recent, Maleficent.

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Director James Wan also had editors pouring through archives of used and unused footage from previous Fast & Furious movies. Previously unused footage and audio recordings of Paul Walker were used to reconstruct scenes, digitally cutting & pasting footage in the new film. The benefit of this was that Paul’s own real life performance was used instead of imitating what he would have done. Although it may seem strange to bring a dead actor back to life, but the truth is that with modern effects, many living actors are already having their entire bodies digitally scanned in order to pull off tricky scenes. This is fast becoming an accepted method of filmmaking in Hollywood. For example, the deceased Oliver Reed was digitally inserted into the hit movie, Gladiator using this method of character mapping.

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Audience worldwide have enjoyed Furious 7 & appreciated the final performance by Paul Walker as if he was still alive. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch it now & don’t forget to leave your comments below about the visual effects used in Furious 7.

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