The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games saga returns to screens with Francis Lawrence at the helm

Project Category





Francis Lawrence

Outpost VFX Producer

Mandy Middlewood

Outpost VFX Supervisor

Sheen Yap

Project Overview

“We had a wide scope of VFX work on The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes ranging from CG environments to hero creatures and their animation – it was really exciting to be a part of!” Outpost VFX Supervisor, Sheen Yap, details the scope of the team’s work on the Francis Lawrence feature.

Outpost VFX Producer, Mandy Middlewood adds:

“We were thrilled to start work on this project for a number of reasons, one of them being the opportunity to work once again with some of our favourite clients; Eve Fizz and Adrian de Wet. It’s always a fun and collaborative experience.”

“The film – a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy – follows Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blythe) before he becomes the infamous President of Panem,” Yap continues. Set 64 years before the events of the original Hunger Games films, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes us back to the 10th annual games where Snow is a mentor to District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler).

A young Snow – very different to the President Snow we see in the trilogy – comes from a once-proud family who have fallen on hard times in a post-war Capitol. Living with his grandmother and cousin, Tigris (Hunter Schafer), Snow’s involvement in the Hunger Games is the last hope for their failing lineage.

“To portray how poor and hungry they were at this point in time, we were tasked with making Snow look skinnier in a number of shots where he is topless,” Yap explains. “This was done in 2D with our compositing team enhancing the ribs and collar bones to be more prominent and slimming in the waist and arms to make him look emaciated.”

A lot of the team’s work took place during the Hunger Games event itself, for example one the most complex sequences the team undertook involved drones that were used to deliver items to the tributes during the games. “The technology of the delivery drones at this point in the Hunger Games universe was not as sophisticated as the drones in the trilogy; they were a little inaccurate and clumsy in their delivery,” Yap explains.

“Snow used this malfunction as part of his strategy to cause chaos in the arena in order to save Lucy Baird. As a result, we were tasked with animating multiple flying drones smashing into the arena and other tributes with a lot of FX dust interaction and destruction of the drones breaking into pieces,” Yap explains.

Middlewood adds: “The drones kick up large amounts of swirling dust, crash and explode into bits against walls or against the tributes themselves! Across a number of dynamic shots, this part of our work on the project was full of challenging integration of the drones into the CG arena.”

The arena itself was a large CG environment build: “In all our shots that took place in the arena, we needed to replace the environment with the damaged arena asset,” Yap recalls. “We had quite a few close-up shots of the damaged roof section that our environment artist had to up-res and add more set dressing to for our sequences.”

“As this was a shared asset with several different vendors, any adjustments had to be done carefully and mindfully of the other studios for continuity. It was great collaborating with the other studios to end up with the final asset that looks great integrated into those beautifully shot plates,” Yap continues.

Another key element of the team’s work was building and animating the Jabberjays: birds engineered by the Capitol to spy on rebels with their ability to memorise and repeat human conversations. Much like the Mockingjays of the Hunger Games trilogy, the Jabberjays were integral to the storyline of the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes with Snow using them to his advantage.

“We mostly studied ravens and crows for the asset build, especially for the feather and groom arrangements and how they react to light. Getting the iridescent purple blue green colour of the Jabberjay feathers was a delicate process in getting the balance right between lookdev, lighting and comp,” Yap explains. “As for the way the bird moved, starling birds were a great reference for our animation and CFX team to help bring the Jabberjay mimicking recorded voices to life.”

“We're particularly proud of our work on the Jabberjay sequences. CG birds can be a challenge and our artists created a beautiful animal that our animators could bring to life,” Middlewood adds. “We have several shots that provide a close up look at them in their cages – they are perfectly convincing!”

Outpost’s other VFX work on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes included destruction to an air duct, weapon extensions, digi-double takeovers and 2D screen replacements which were stylised to look like old analogue monitors.

Reflecting on her time supervising the project, Yap concludes: “We had such a fantastic team on this show; the teamwork and camaraderie really made this project special to work on. To everyone who helped bring this project to life I’d like to say: thank you for all the hard work and may the odds be ever in your favour.”