‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ David F. Sandberg on the IMAX Experience & VFX
Mar 18, 2023
On Wednesday, March 15, ahead of the wide release of the long-awaited DCEU sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Collider teamed up with IMAX, DC Studios, and Warner Bros. to offer fans a chance to see the film ahead of time in the cinema, how it was intended to be seen on the big, big screen! This exciting event was originally going to include a Q&A from director David F. Sandberg, who unfortunately was unable to attend due to COVID. Luckily, Collider’s Steve Weintraub was able to speak with Sandberg via Zoom to discuss all things IMAX and Shazam! 2.
In a sequel where a family of superheroes is duking it out with Greek goddesses who call themselves the Daughters of Atlas, the bigger, the better. In Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Zachary Levi reprises his role as the kid-hero Billy Batson/Shazam, alongside a returning cast that includes Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, and more, and introduces Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler to the DCEU universe. At the helm of it all, Sandberg returned from the first movie with even more epic fight sequences and what’s quickly becoming his signature horror flair.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
During his conversation with us, Sandberg shares some IMAX formatting secrets, like the breakdown of adapting sound mixes, and we learn not only his favorite IMAX spot but James Cameron’s as well. Sandberg touches on the master of IMAX, Christopher Nolan, shares why Shazam! Fury of the Gods needs to be seen on the biggest screen, and even reveals a “band-aid” for tricky VFX shots to be on the lookout for in the movie. For all of this and more, you can watch the interview in the video above, or read the full conversation below.
COLLIDER: So how are you feeling?
DAVID F. SANDBERG: Oh, I’m feeling much better today. But yeah, it was super weird yesterday seeing pictures and stuff from the premiere and not being there. It was very strange, but yeah, I got to do the screening and some local premieres in Europe, so that was cool.
Image via David F. Sandberg’s YouTube
Yeah, at least it was at the tail end of the trip.
SANDBERG: Yeah, and you know, of course, that’s where I got it by traveling around and talking to all the people.
This is just the new norm, and you’re not the only filmmaker I’ve spoken to who got it at the end of the tour. It’s a long list of people. What room are you at? Is this your screening room at home?
SANDBERG: Yeah, or my little home office kind of thing. So facing this way I have my desktop, facing that way I can watch movies and stuff.
So what you’re basically saying is when you were working on Shazam! this is the room that you were working on it in?
SANDBERG: No, then I was at Warner Bros. for the editing and everything.
I meant more before you started filming, this is probably the room you were developing everything.
SANDBERG: Yes, yeah. So before we moved down to Atlanta before prep really starting, yeah.
Image via Warner Bros.
The main reason we get to talk today is about IMAX. I’ve said repeatedly that’s my favorite way of watching a movie. I have many memories of IMAX theaters and where I saw what and when, so I want to know from you: Do you have a favorite IMAX memory of seeing a movie in a movie theater that really left a strong impression on you?
SANDBERG: I only saw IMAX in the U S, I never saw it in Sweden when I lived there. I think they have them, but not where I lived. No, I think here, I thought Dunkirk was really cool. I mean, Christopher Nolan is like, he’s the IMAX guy, shooting on the real film cameras and everything. It would be awesome to try that at some point, being out there in IMAX, looking at those big cameras and everything. Yeah, I think Dunkirk because that was a somewhat early one. I don’t remember what the first one was, but I just thought that one worked so well because, I mean, so much of it is in the full IMAX because it’s very little dialogue so they could just shoot it with the giant cameras so much.
Do you have a favorite theater in LA that you like watching movies in, specifically IMAX?
SANDBERG: I think I’ve only mostly been at the Universal CityWalk. What are the best ones here?
James Cameron told me years ago that he likes the AMC Burbank 16.
SANDBERG: Yeah, I’ve been there, but maybe I haven’t seen anything in IMAX there. Do they have the full film projection and everything?
Yeah, the CityWalk is excellent because it’s one of those full-on movie theaters. and the Burbank AMC 16 is great. It is a really fantastic theater, but it’s not like CityWalk. CityWalk’s like those old-school science Museum types, and Burbank has been sort of retrofitted, but they’re both great, great theaters.
SANDBERG: Yeah, I’ve been to AMC 16 many times, but, yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen anything in IMAX there.
Next time you go see something there, maybe even your movie, once you’re feeling good. Audiences clearly have a choice on where they’re going to see a movie and your movie is about to come out in IMAX, so what do you want to tell people as to why they should see your movie on an IMAX screen?
SANDBERG: It’s the biggest screen, the most immersive screen, and I like the IMAX sound as well. I mean, you do a separate IMAX mix for it just because it’s such a different configuration from the normal ones. So much of it is just the size and how enveloped in it you are.
Actually, you touched on this a little bit and I wanted to go a little deeper if you don’t mind. A lot of times people don’t realize, the average person doesn’t understand when you finish the movie and you get your VFX shots and everything, there’s still a lot of work to do in post-production, getting the movie ready to be in a movie theater. Can you talk about what you do specifically for an IMAX release that is different than a normal theater?
SANDBERG: Yeah, I mean, you do a separate sound mix. IMAX doesn’t have subwoofers, for instance, because they have such big speakers that you don’t need it. So you don’t need an LFE channel, and you have sort of a different configuration of speakers, so you have to do a separate mix. Then the image is worked on, as well, but that’s something that IMAX does. They have their own process for it that, I guess, is kind of secret, or something. So what happens is that they’ll do their sort of conversion time and show it to you, and then, if there’s anything you don’t like about it you can give notes or whatever, but I don’t think I’ve ever had any notes because it looks great every time.
I’m assuming you went to their headquarters to watch. So that theater is where we often do some of our screenings. We did a screening there. I’m trying to explain– Most people don’t get to go there, but sitting in that theater, it’s kind of nice.
SANDBERG: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s a fantastic theater, and it’s cool that they have the two versions. So you can check out both. They have the fanciest one, but then they also have this – I don’t want to call it a lesser one, but it is a little lesser than the fanciest one.
The big screen is, I believe, laser projection. The whole top-of-the-line kind of things.
SANDBERG: Yeah, no. That one’s the absolute best.
Speaking about the movie for a split second, when you think about all the VFX that you did and all the stuff that you worked on for the Shazam! sequel, which sequence ended up being the one that was, “Are we ever going to finish this? Is it gonna look as good as I’m imagining it’s gonna look in my head?”
SANDBERG: Yeah, it wasn’t so much sequences, more like shots that took forever, and you know, you always run out of time and have to fix things. I mean, the one that was probably one of the very last shots to come in, is when they all gather at the bridge, and he’s like, “Oh, we only have…” you know, they all fly in and land and everything. The big issue there was Mary because she flies in– so she starts out as a digi double, and then it turns into the actress, Grace, on wires being lowered down and landing. And that hand-off just was not working because, usually, when you go from a digi double to a real person it’s in a quick move, so things get hidden by motion blur, and this was just a very smooth, very slow landing, and it just did not work.
We were talking to the VFX guys and everything to redo the whole thing, to redo the digi double, and everything was gonna be so expensive and take so much time, and we were just at the right at the end of the schedule. So, what we ended up doing was we added a bunch of smoke, that’s why she goes through a smoke cloud. So, as she goes through that smoke, that’s when she goes from digi to real, but it’s nicely integrated. When she goes through the smoke, her body pushes it away and everything, so, I mean, if you don’t know that it’s a band-aid, I think it works, but it’s totally just like, “Let’s cover it up, what’s not working, with adding smoke.
That happens a lot, you know, especially towards the end where it’s like, “Oh, this shot is not getting there, let’s add some lens flares or camera shake, or something just to hide it,” you know? But yeah, that one was one that took forever to do. So yeah, it was a day we were just not getting there, so add smoke, you know?
Image via Warner Bros.
It’s so funny because I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I would have never guessed that was a band-aid.
SANDBERG: Well, mission accomplished then. But, yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of things like that you have to do in a movie, and hopefully, audiences just think it’s all intentional.
Sure, so what you’re trying to say is J.J. [Abrams’] lens flares in his first Star Trek movie was hiding stuff.
SANDBERG: [Laughs] They probably helped him a lot. Yeah, probably helped him a lot.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in theaters now. You can watch our interview with Levi below.
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