Method Studios Demolishes Downtown Los Angeles in "San Andreas"

Published on in Miscellaneous

The action thriller "San Andreas," now in theaters, is packed with catastrophic destruction, achieved in part through 247 complex visual effects shots executed by Method Studios facilities. As one of the main visual effects vendors on the film, Method was responsible for the entire downtown Los Angeles sequence, in which an earthquake decimates the city, and also contributed to the San Francisco sequence. 

Method VFX Supervisor Nordin Rahhali was on-set for two months of the shoot, overseeing select shots in both Los Angeles and Brisbane to ensure efficient integration with CG elements and surroundings in post production. The focal point of the Los Angeles sequence is a continuous 3-minute shot beginning with an aerial view into the top-level restaurant of a mid-rise building that then tracks actress Carla Gugino through the chaos as she attempts to escape the impending carnage via rooftop helicopter piloted by her character’s husband, played by Dwayne Johnson. Comprising 4,500 frames, the shot was carefully pre-visualized by director Brad Peyton working with The Third Floor. 

"The Los Angeles sequence was a huge challenge in terms of the scale and the complexity of what was needed," commented Rahhali. "We had full CG environments where everything from high rises to trees are collapsing and everything needed to look photo-real and behave realistically, even down to the type and behavior of the smoke clouds."

To completely reconstruct downtown Los Angeles in photo-real CG, Rahhali and his Method team captured extensive Lidar scans of the area from both street level and rooftops, and collected aerial shots to use as photography and lighting references. Artists used the data to build CG environments, which were stitched with the live action plates shot in Australia, then added atmospheric effects such as smoke and pyroclastic clouds to bring everything together in a cohesive scene. 

Method also contributed to the San Francisco sequence in "San Andreas," sharing assets, cameras, models and textures with Scanline and Hydraulx. In one particular scene, Method completed all foreground destruction of the city itself as Scanline destroyed the Bay Bridge. For both the Los Angeles and San Francisco sequences, Method also delivered helicopter composites and CG crowds to bring a heightened level of realism to the devastation. 

Approximately 90 Method artists worked on "San Andreas," with the project spanning nearly a year. Method’s synchronized pipeline included Autodesk Maya for layouts and tracking, Side Effects Software’s Houdini for VFX and lighting, Side Effects Software’s Mantra for rendering, The Foundry’s NUKE for compositing and Massive Software’s Massive for CG crowds. Artists also used Autodesk’s Shotgun and RV for realtime shot and asset tracking, and review, respectively. 

About "San Andreas"
After the infamous San Andreas Fault finally gives, triggering a magnitude 9-plus earthquake in California, a search and rescue helicopter pilot and his estranged wife make their way together from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their only daughter. But their treacherous journey north is only the beginning, and when they think the worst may be’s just getting started. 

"San Andreas" stars Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi and Paul Giamatti. It is directed by Brad Peyton and produced by Beau Flynn, with a screenplay by Carlton Cuse, story by Andre Fabrizio & Jeremy Passmore. Richard Brener, Samuel J. Brown, Michael Disco, Toby Emmerich, Rob Cowan, Tripp Vinson and Bruce Berman are the executive producers. Steve Yedlin is director of photography; Barry Chusid, production designer; Bob Ducsay, editor; Andrew Lockington, composer. 

A New Line Cinema presentation in Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a FlynnPictureCo. Production, a Brad Peyton Film, it will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures. 

For more information on the film, which is now playing in theaters worldwide, visit:

About Method Studios
Method Studios is an award-winning international visual effects group with facilities in Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, London, Sydney and Melbourne. Built around an exceptional team of artists, Method services high-end feature film, commercial and motion graphics clients. Its network of international facilities provides a full range of services around the clock for productions in any location, including conceptual design, look development, on-set supervision, 3D animation/CGI, motion graphics, matte painting, compositing, and finishing. Method is wholly owned by Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Inc. Visit for more information.

images courtesy of method studios

ProductionHUB ProductionHUB Logo

Related Blog Posts


There are no comments on this blog post.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.