google playGoogle
app storeiOS
profile icon

Home»Features»Free Guy: How VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg built world of video games in Ryan Reynold starrer»

Free Guy: How VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg built world of video games in Ryan Reynold starrer

Directed by Shawn Levy, the film also stars Jodie Comer, Talka Waititi and Joe Keery. The film is streaming on Disney+Hotstar

Free Guy: How VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg built world of video games in Ryan Reynold starrer
Free Guy
  • OTTplay Team

Last Updated: 09.53 AM, Jan 31, 2022


The film Free Guy, led by Ryan Reynolds, opened to great reviews on its release. The film has been praised for its clever concept of the story, set in the real world and in the world of video games. Guy, played by Reynolds, is a non-player character who saves his friends from being deleted by the owner of the multiplayer online video game. The task of creating that virtual world set in real life sounds daunting but it seems it was equally fun too. 

To get the set right, the director Shawn Levy and production VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg who has worked on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame started the process by playing a lot of video games. "In the end, the film’s look is “an amalgamation of many games and it’s definitely a heightened level,” Gillberg told The Hollywood Reporter. The VFX team drew inspiration from the video games Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite. 

The further process was challenging. The VFX team had to create a digital stunt double for Reynolds. The team scanned The Red Notice actor photogrammetry scanning. The actor also visited Institute for Creative Technologies to get a high-resolution facial scan done. But the requirements kept changing as the story involved the real world, the gameplay and the Free City game world. The digital versions of the actor in the gameplay were initially planned with a photo-real but Gillberg said it was difficult to tell it's gameplay. So, they decided to take a different route and opt for something cartoony but since it was not empathetic enough, they went ahead with something related to Grand Theft Auto. "And we used all the scanning for that, to get Ryan’s in-game play emotive enough for the audience to care about him,” he told the portal. 

The team worked on face replacement to create Dude, a heightened version of Guy. The VFX studio Lola captured Reynolds’ facial expressions to apply his body language to the on-set performance of the bodybuilder Aaron Reed and Reynolds would do his scenes with Aaron or his body double. “Then Ryan would do Dude’s side as a reference for Aaron to try to get the comedy and the mannerisms. Then we’d reshoot it with Ryan and Aaron, and then do a reference pass with Ryan for lighting,” he said. Gillberg insists on the importance of an actor's performance, despite having a lot of VFX in the movie. He said he wanted Ryan to do the parts as it is mainly about performance. “Even though we did some of it in post, it was still Ryan’s performance directed by Shawn,” he added. 

Free Guy/Instagram
Free Guy/Instagram

The VFX team created around 50 background characters, their environments and effects. The film is set in Boston, Pittsburgh and Miami and the team scanned and shot in all three locations. Gillberg said that he scanned 12 city blocks in Boston and also did drone photogrammetry. In Pittsburgh and Miami, they did an aerial. 

The makers wanted to pay homage to the video game community with the film. “Our whole goal throughout was to come up with an entertaining, eye-popping, fun thing but also to pay homage to the video game community,” he said.   

The film is now available to stream on Disney+Hotstar. Apart from Ryan Reynolds, the film also stars Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi and Joe Keery.