We're used to superhero blockbusters with eye-popping effects. But did you know even grounded, realistic-seeming movies like Sicario: Day of the Soldado, aka Sicario 2, are jammed with computer-generated (CG) effects you're not even meant to notice?
Effects company Rodeo FX worked on Sicario, and these before-and-after photos show how it used CG to invisibly alter locations and give the filmmakers the flexibility to tell their story.
This is what's known as a "plate." It's a shot of actors or vehicles at a real location, and it serves as a clean starting point for the next stage in the filmmaking process.
And that next stage is adding the effects! In this case Rodeo turned the empty background into an army base that demonstrates American military might.
For this shot of a military convoy crossing the US-Mexican border, the filmmakers built a portion of the border-crossing with blue screens in the background.
The blue screens could be digitally replaced with a new background. The small section of the border-crossing that was built for real was also extended, making it look bigger. This is called digital set extension.
Here's another plate filmed at a real location.
And here, subtle additions let the filmmakers add vehicles and props that'd be too expensive to bring in for real.
CG allows filmmakers more flexibility in choosing locations.
Because subtle digital effects can be used to make the locations perfect.
Effects can also help create small but important shots that would've been expensive.
Here, the effects studio digitally added a combat drone.
Some shots are entirely digital, like this overhead view.
The previous, computer-like view was built digitally from a real-world shot.
CG is used more often than you think, in movies and increasingly in TV.
Real locations are often tweaked to make them fit the story or, for example, to add period details.
This plate shows another view of the small border-crossing set.
Obviously, sets can be digitally built-out to an impressive extent.
Even when action is shot for real, with real vehicles and explosions, digital effects can make things even more spectacular.
Flaming wreckage and the streak of a rocket are digitally inserted.
As well as adding things, CG can be used to remove stuff you're not meant to see.
Presto: Wires and camera equipment have vanished.
CG lets filmmakers completely transform a shot, shooting something like this helicopter in an easier way.
And then converting to the appearance of nighttime, which would've been more difficult to achieve by actually flying at night.
The movie begins with a devastating shot lasting more than a minute, which proved to be FX studio Rodeo's biggest challenge.
Rodeo began by augmenting the real location with CG.
The filmmakers couldn't blow up the actual location.
They instead turned to software that uses algorithms to realistically simulate explosions, flying debris and smoke.
Visual effects go through various stages, starting with rough animations to cut down on computer processing. Each shot is rendered into its final high-definition form only when everyone is happy.
Even though this shot lasts for just over a minute, it took Rodeo nearly a year to complete.