If there’s one thing you don’t really want to deal with on a movie set, it’s a real fire. But fire is extremely hard to fake—it’s obvious even when you have a budget to set on fire. Lane Brown reports on the challenges of depicting flame.
Sometimes the problem is color correction. Flames generate some intense hues; it’s crucial that any adjustments stay within a certain spectrum or the fire may appear unnaturally bright or dark. In fact, modern digital filmmaking involves so much postproduction tinkering that even real fires can succumb to the same issues as computer-generated ones. Conway recalls working on one of the explosions for 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard: “The bang itself was great, but then they played around with it and it just looked like rubbish onscreen. It was a horrible and embarrassing shame for me.”
Ron Howard almost ruined Backdraft with 1990s-era CG, and ultimately took out the pixelated extra fire—but would certainly not now chance what he chanced 30 years ago: “Before, there was calculated risk involved, but today you don’t have to take that risk. If I were making Backdraft now, I would use a lot of digital fire. I think it’s the responsible thing to do.”
Below, I’m guessing, is the scene from The Hitman’s Bodyguard that so embarrassed Conway; real explosions loaded with uncanny CG.