You might be surprised about what’s real and what’s synthetic in ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’

Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, now streaming on Netflix, mostly takes place on the private island of billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), complete with an intricate ‘Glass Onion’ structure. Except, of course, that location did not really fully exist.

It was up to the film’s visual effects team to flesh out island views, build the Glass Onion in CG itself based on artwork and on-set builds, and then destroy it. (And yes, those interior shots filmed on bluescreen with a crazy amount of glass were a challenge).

Here, DNEG visual effects supervisor Sameer Malik and DNEG executive producer Philipp Wolf tell befores & afters about the many invisible effects their studio was responsible for in the film, including a few surprising ones.

Image courtesy of DNEG © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Image courtesy of DNEG © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

b&a: What’s so great about the VFX in this film is that they are largely so invisible—what kind of conversations did you have with the filmmakers about the ‘style’ of visual effects work required here?

Sameer Malik: The communication about the asset design was made clear to us from the beginning. Every asset had a different requirement to its look, but we had a design brief and concept art to work from for the Glass Onion, Villa and Aerospace factory. From there, we needed to make sure that the Glass Onion complimented the Villa, and that the two assets married together in a coherent way.

Philipp Wolf: The goal from the beginning was for the visual effects to seamlessly integrate into the film and enhance the storytelling while keeping control of specific elements in the scene. Visualising the autostereogram on the puzzle box was one of those challenges where visual effects came in to help the narrative.

b&a: For the Glass Onion glass structure itself, can you talk about the evolution of the design process for this, in terms of what you received from the art department, whether any maquettes were made, and what particular challenges there were in realizing the building as glass?

Philipp Wolf: The design of the Glass Onion structure was defined from the moment we got involved in the project. Based on concept art and the on-set builds, our team rebuilt the structure and its interior. From a production perspective, the biggest challenge was to render such a reflective and refractive structure and to ensure it properly sat in the different light situations of the provided plates.

Sameer Malik: The daytime exterior shots were a real challenge! We had to find the right index of refraction and transmission in order to show the reflection of the environment. We tested the IOR (Index of Refraction) value under the different transmission values within the context of each shot to find the right balance.