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Genre MVP: The invisible VFX that the Avengers couldn't live without
If Jamie and Lindsay Hallett do their jobs right, you'll never know they worked on the movie you're watching at all.
In an age when virtually anything imaginable can be rendered on the big screen and blockbuster spectacles that throw just about all of them at the viewer, the Halletts and their visual effects shingle Capital T focus less on the otherworldly extras than the everyday essentials. Their stock in trade is the crucial elements of a scene that, if not properly executed, would take an audience right out of the story.
The proper scenery zooming past in a car chase. A cell phone or computer screen delivering crucial information. The spire of a building on a set designed with just the foreground in mind. A crane in the background of a shot. Over the last half-decade, Capital T has made its name working to fix and insert the details in some of the biggest and most scrutinized movies to hit theaters and TV shows to air, from Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and American Gods to the upcoming Avengers: Endgame and Ad Astra.
The husband-and-wife team began the company in 2012, the result of decades of working in the industry and the actualization of their dream to get out of Los Angeles and live in even more surf-friendly environs. They work out of their home studio in Maui, where they receive steady work from years of relationship-building.
Lindsay has credits on over 100 movies, having worked as a VFX executive producer alongside and for major houses such as Sony ImageWorks, Paramount, and Luma Pictures (where she still consults); Jamie worked on set and in post-production at many of the same studios, along with others such as IMAX and Scanline. But the bulk of their work now is in 2D visual effects, many of them clutch corrections or additions that couldn't be done on set.
"There's a wide variety of things, like somebody's acting and some leaves fell in her hair and they're not supposed to be there," Lindsay told SYFY WIRE last month. "What we do is generally straightforward, it's not super-subjective. So they give it to us and they say, 'We need this not to be there' or 'We need it darker or lighter,' and we do it."
On Black Panther and Avengers, their work included set extensions, wardrobe fixes, and rig removals. They've also done a lot of background compositions, especially on bigger action movies. Car chases offer a perfect example of the work they perform. Actors will be shot in a car or ship-like rig and jostled around in a controlled, timed environment, the action staged against a green screen. At the same time, a second unit will go out and shoot the road and passing background, from the exact same camera angles used on the main set. Then Capital T gets to work.
"We can annotate and discuss each shot in interactive review sessions using cineSync software, remotely talking through visual effects with the studio. They select a piece of it and then we use that as your starting point," Jamie explained. "And then you can adjust the plate, take things out, maybe they don't want those certain trees back there, maybe they want a different sky."
The two complete each other's sentences quite often, especially when talking about their work, so Lindsay continued rattling off other examples of what kind of background tweaking they may perform on those shots.
"Or maybe they want it to be a different time frame," she added. "You know, 'Oh, that sign wouldn't have been there in 1950' or 'Oh, we need to change that sign so it's a neon sign.' Or weather things. They shot in the winter, but it's no longer winter and now suddenly they need snow on the ground or they need a gray sky or they need a blue sky."
In that way, Capital T's work is designed to be unnoticeable — or, if they screw up, absolutely jarring. If they do a slapdash job, it'll take the viewer right out of the story. Inconsistent weather, a sky that changes color, a stray hair, a billboard advertising a product from the wrong era, a cell phone screen that jitters above the actual device. It's all in the details, which the Halletts oversee from their unique perch in Hawaii.