Ridiculous 6 - The Breakdown

Ridiculous 6 galloped onto small screens around the globe via Netflix on 11 December – the latest in a growing collection of original Netflix programming that challenges the status quo of traditional film distribution.

And this particular endeavour – a Blazing Saddles-style farce set in the burning heat of Old West America – fared particularly well via the service. Indeed, a month after its release Netflix announced that the Adam Sandler comedy had been viewed more times in 30 days than any other movie in the service’s history.

ZERO VFX was honored to be a part of this comedy-driven adventure, being brought on board to deliver 400 shots that required a varied set of disciplines and approaches.

“We worked on a variety of shots, from set extensions, to split screens for explosions, to adding smoke and integrating pyro effects where they were needed,” begins VFX supervisor Randy Goux.

“However, being a comedy, most of the shots we worked on were there to give that extra bit of impact to the humour – there were lots of little gag jokes!” he continues. “For example, we helped chop off Harvey Keitel’s head. At first it was just a clean chop, but to add that extra ‘yuck’ fact we added a spine element sticking out the top. Visual effects can be funny too!”

Being prepared

To ensure as streamlined and simple VFX process as possible, ZERO’s experienced VFX team was present on The Ridiculous 6 from the very initial stages of pre-production.

“To be prepared on set takes a lot of communication prior to starting anything else,” explains Goux. “Weeks before a single camera was switched on we were discussing every element of the film and preparing for all eventualities. Things will always change, but if you are in communication and in tune with your director you don’t need to worry as much – you know exactly what you need to do.”

When filming commenced, ZERO’s supervisors were on set from day one, staying in constant communication with director Frank Coraci. “That’s exactly the way you want it,” says Brian Drewes, ZERO’s creative director. “We discussed methodology and the story he wanted to shoot, and when we were finished and came back to the studio to work on post, we knew exactly what was needed to achieve that creative vision.”

The collaborative and preparatory process ensured that ZERO was more than ready to tackle any VFX challenges as and when they arose – including adding extra CG elements to enhance the humour of the plate photography.

“The Ridiculous 6 is an Adam Sandler comedy after all, so often we had to react to plate photography that didn’t always hit home with the original comedic intention,” says Drewes. “We used visual effects to generate those extra laughs in post – another example of how CG can be used to enhance storytelling.”

4K comedy

Another challenge came in the 4K nature of the shoot, with every Netflix Original movie posted in 4K. “We were using Maya for 3D and NUKE for compositing, with everything in 4K resolution,” says Goux. “That was an additional onus on us, so we upgraded some workstations and our server. That’s been really useful for ZERO, as we have two more 4K shows in the pipeline, and we’re now totally 4K ready.”

The result is a movie that’s packed with laughs, but also surprisingly beautiful, the 4K resolution enhancing the stunning cinematography captured during the shoot.

“Dean Semler was the director of photography, and he’s amazing,” remembers Drewes. “It’s fun to watch him work and see what he can achieve, being in New Mexico with those amazing backdrops that naturally come for free.

“Considering that, the bar was set when we walked on – being at those beautiful places with such a legendary cinematographer, and matching the VFX to that level: that’s something for ZERO to be really proud of.”