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Digital Tools Recreate Old-School Practical Effects on ‘Hail, Caesar!’

The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! takes place on a variety of film sets from the 1950s. The challenge for the visual effects department was to digitally recreate some old-fashioned special effects techniques–such as miniatures and rear projection.

Visual effects supervisor Dan Schrecker talks to The Verge about his work on the film. “It’s just so easy to hang a green screen there, and it’s relatively easy to make it look like a rear-screen projection because all you’re doing is a bad green screen composite,” he says about how they simulated a rear projection scene. “You don’t track it. You don’t color-correct it. You make sure the edges look good, but there’s not much more to it. So part of it was what was feasible and practical to shoot. And a good example of that was the whole sub sequence, because we did a lot of research there looking at practical miniature subs. Because if they were going to do this for real in the ’50s, they would have shot a miniature. So we looked at a lot of sub movies from the period, and even all the way up to Das Boot, which is sort of the apex of that style of film. And we looked at these movies from the ’50s, and they’re pretty silly looking. It was important to Joel and Ethan that it didn’t look silly — we couldn’t really make it look bad; we had to keep it real — but hearken back to some of those techniques.”