World War Z

  • Director Marc Forster;
  • VFX Supervisor Jessica Norman;
  • Studio Paramount Pictures;

Directed by Marc Forster and starring Brad Pitt, World War Z revolves around United Nations Employee Gerry Lee (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.

Lead by MPC VFX Supervisor Jessica Norman, the team completed more than 450 shots, under the guidance of Scott Farrar, the Production VFX Supervisor. MPC’s main areas of work were creating the Zombie hordes in Jerusalem, the plane crash sequence, the Wales Sequence and the Epilogue.

The largest portion of MPC’s work was for the Israel sequence. The action starts in the safe area known as ‘Busland’. The shots were a mix of live action plates, added CG environments, CG humans, CG zombies, CG helicopters and FX passes for dust and helicopter wash. Once Busland gets over run by Zombies, the action continues throughout the city.

MPC received concept art early on, showing different Zombie formations. These included pyramid formations and tentacle-like shapes and reference material including insects swarming and schools of fish formations.

MPC’s most exciting work was the huge crowd scenes. MPC’s CG Supervisor Max Wood captured mocap clips, adapted MPC’s proprietary crowd system ALICE, and tested the technology needed to render these huge crowds.  The crowd characters were built from reference photography and scans gathered on set. MPC’s Modelling and Assets team creating 24 different body types with different textures, which resulted in 3,000 possible crowd variations.  

Crowd shots began with the layout, shape and speed of the crowd being defined. For the zombie pyramids the team began with geometry, which was then populated based on inclination using ALICE. The larger pyramids typically included around 5000 agents.

In all of the complex crowd shots we added layers of hand animated zombies.  For falling and landing zombies we used PAPI, our in house rigid body dynamic solver, which is based on the Havok physics engine. MPC’s Crowd team worked with the Animation department to ensure the zombies moved realistically when in a crowd and when interacting with live action or digi doubles.

The environment team created matte paintings based on photography taken in Jerusalem. The team also built a 70ft tall wall that is seen in shots in Busland. Outside the wall MPC’s team created the environment using DMP and projection techniques. The Compositing team worked closely with the lighting team to break down the passes and layers that made up the crowd. We then set up standardized nuke templates that streamlined the compositing workflow.

The plane sequence was shot inside a partial plane on a gimble rig.  MPC’s compositing team added aerial plates shot on location into the green screen windows. When the hole is blown out of the side of the plane, the FX team, enhanced the SFX explosion and added CG Zombies being sucked from the plane and a CG wing and engine.  The sequence ends with the plane crashing. A live action plate was shot with trees and the ground. MPC added mountains, skyline and CG breakable trees. A CG plane was added with layers of FX including a large dust trail, tree parts and ground interaction. Live action and rendered fx elements were added in comp using deep passes.


  • Director Marc Forster
  • VFX Supervisor Jessica Norman
  • Studio Paramount Pictures
  • © 2013 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

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