Work

Bob Marley: One Love

Reinaldo Marcus Green's ("King Richard") newest biopic explores the iconic life and career of legendary reggae musician, Bob Marley.

Project Category

Film

Client

Paramount

Director

Reinaldo Marcus Green

Outpost VFX Supervisor

Roni Rodrigues
Ian Fellows


Project Overview


“When we started on this project, authenticity to Bob Marley and his story was of the highest importance to all of us; the production side team, everyone at Outpost, and the Marley family who were involved in the process throughout,” Outpost VFX Supervisor Ian Fellows reveals.

Bob Marley: One Love is a biopic based on the life and career of reggae singer songwriter, Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard), the film focuses on Marley’s rise to fame during the making of the Exodus album in 1977.

“Outpost were the lead VFX vendor on Bob Marley: One Love, so we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the vibrant life of the legendary Reggae artist,” Outpost VFX Producer, Sarah Pike explains.

"We all worked closely with those who knew Bob Marley best, which helped us to capture his essence and power in the environments and people around him," Pike continues.

The most complex VFX work the Outpost team undertook for the biopic would lie in recreating some of Marley’s most iconic music performances throughout his career: “Our most challenging sequences were those detailing Bob Marley and The Wailers’ infamous concerts, notably the Smile Jamaica (1976) and One Love Peace concerts (1978). Both were aimed at reducing political factions and violence in Jamaica at the time,” Pike continues.

To bring these moments to life, an incredible level of detail and care went into recreating iconic music venues, creating vast digital crowds and ensuring time-period accuracy to transport viewers back to these moments in music history.

The venue building would include world-renowned venues such as the now-defunct Paris Pavilion, the Rainbow Theatre in London, and Heroes Park and the National Stadium in Jamaica. The approach for each venue varied, however most builds began with LIDAR scans that were gathered from sets or the real-world venues themselves. Additional time-accurate details were then built on top, with the team undertaking vast research into archival footage and images of the locations during the time of Marley’s performances.

Filming for the Paris Pavilion performance would be shot at Alexandra Palace in London. LIDAR scans of the environment were then passed onto the VFX team for them to use as a base for their CG environment. The team then found reference imagery online in the form of photos and blueprints for the architectural details of the Paris Pavilion in the 70s which they added into the environment as CG elements.

In gathering this reference for the event itself, only two images of Marley at the Paris Pavilion were found to exist, both taken during the band’s sound check. From these two images, the more minute venue details were replicated, such as the banners, drapery on the ceiling and the decoration on the pillars.

The team were able to find footage of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ performance at the pavilion in 1977 on YouTube which was used as reference for elements such as the lighting, band formation, even the band member’s movements and performances on the night.

The larger stadium shows were shot in Heroes Park in Jamaica, depicting both Marley’s ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert in Kingston in 1976, as well as his performance at Jamaica’s National Stadium, Independence Park. While the production team were unable to shoot on location at the National Stadium, they were able to provide LIDAR scans of the venue which the Environment team was then able to build on top of to create the 3D environment.

A number of camera take-overs were necessary for the National Stadium environment to create the right perspective and capture the vast CG crowd that was at the concert.

One of the bigger creative challenges of the venue building was a montage that was used to give a glimpse into Marley’s rising popularity during his Exodus tour in 1977. Due to practicality, a number of these locations were shot on set at Alexandra Palace. The challenge became adding differing architectural CG elements that differentiate one venue from the next.

These architectural elements would be built on top of the same LIDAR scans, referencing typical architectural features of that particular country during the 1970s.

Once the venues were created, the team needed to populate them with tens of thousands of crowd members: “We had the challenge of capturing the sheer size of these concerts, the atmosphere and energy of the crowd through CG means,” Pike explains. “The crowd, lighting and compositing departments worked tirelessly to make sure the look, movement and reactions of the crowd suited the plate photography and were historically accurate.”

The team took a mixed approach to creating these crowds: the foreground audience would be mostly made up of between 100-200 on-set extras, midground crowd would utilise 2D elements, while 3D agents would make up the background crowd.

A number of additional shoots were required to create the 2D and 3D crowd, including extensive element shoots of extras against a bluescreen in a variety of differing lighting and camera angles, cyberscanning for processing of 3D crowd elements, plus mocap shoots to create animation clips for the crowd rig.

Once all of the crowd elements had been created and were ready to be implemented, the team turned to Houdini to procedurally implement them into the sequences. Houdini also allowed for controlling the crowd density of CG agents in shots, giving the crowd a more authentic feel by thinning out towards the back and the edges of the environments.

Animation cycles were applied and timings were offset to create realistic movement and natural behaviour of the crowd. “Although Houdini was great at giving us the ability to work procedurally, we would have to go back through by eye and make sure everything had a natural feel and make sure there were no ‘wallies’,” Fellows recalls. “It was a delicate balance, for example we couldn’t have too many agents doing the same things too close together as it would draw the eye and look strange in shot context.”

The team would also undertake a delicate sequence known as The Vision. The Vision was a concept that was important to director Reinaldo Marcus Green in giving the viewers an abstract look into Marley’s background and how his history affected the person he became.

The sequence depicted a young Bob Marley played by a child actor who is surrounded by burning sugarcane fields, along with a figure riding on horseback. Due to health and safety concerns the sequence would rely on visual effects to realise the full extent of the director’s vision.

For this, Production VFX Supervisor, Roni Rodrigues worked closely with the SFX team on set who set out gas bars in specific areas, as well as a small, controlled fire towards the back of the shot. This provided the visual effects team with great reference, as well as practical lighting which interacted with the talent on set.

Sugarcane burning is still practiced in Jamaica as it makes it easier and safer for the harvesters to collect the sugarcane once the fire as died out. Rodrigues was able to watch a sugarcane burning with a small camera crew to provide vast reference for the FX team to use when approaching the vision sequence. The FX team used these to create flame, smoke and mist FX for The Vision sequence.

As authenticity was incredibly important, there was a vast amount of period-accuracy visual effects that the team had to undertake, beyond venue recreation. This included modelling period-accurate cars, removing newer buildings from the London skyline, and recreating an AirJamaica jet – an airline that no longer exists.

“The whole process took about one year and four months, and it was amazing,” Rodrigues says, “I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this historical project. Being able to help in telling the story of Bob Marley, it’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for.”

“Bob was a part of my childhood and being there with the Marley family, having creative discussions with Ziggy Marley and meeting Rita Marley in person, going to Kingston and Trenchtown; the whole experience is something I can’t even put into words” Rodrigues continues. “I’m really proud of the film and the results, and incredibly happy I got to meet and work with the whole team; all departments went the extra mile to deliver such an emotional project,” Rodrigues concludes.

Watch Bob Marley: One Love now on Paramount+.