Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy which follows Reginald Dwight’s transformative journey from shy piano prodigy into international superstar Elton John. The action moves from flashbacks to dream sequences, as Elton remembers important periods of his past from a drug and alcohol fuelled perspective.
Cinesite VFX supervisor Holger Voss worked closely with director Dexter Fletcher, ensuring that the visual effects always supported the narrative.
As the main visual effects vendor, notable visual effects include the eponymous Rocketman sequence, where Elton falls into a swimming pool, where he sings the title track alongside a younger version of himself playing a miniature piano, wearing a spacesuit, at the bottom of the pool.
The child was filmed dry on a bluescreen set without a helmet and Taron (Elton) was filmed separately in a pool. Bubbles, underwater particulate, reflections and God-rays were all added as required, in addition to extensive clean up, cameraman and cable removal.
Later in the same sequence, after a very brief period of recovery, Elton appears back on stage at the Dodgers Stadium in his infamous silver baseball outfit.
Director Dexter Fletcher favoured a flexible approach to the crowds, which allowed him to direct as part of the principal photography, without a commitment to complex crowd systems which would impact upon that ability. Because minimal perspective shifts were required, the crowd was created using a sprite system and people were layered on multiple cards placed into the shots. There were two shoots for the audience. The first included about 60 people wearing a single costume and the second 40 people in two costumes each, so Cinesite’s visual effects team had a good number of people to populate the cards.
Close reference was made to original footage of the Dodgers concert and detail was faithfully recreated, from fashion choices to banners, hotdog stands and even beach balls being bounced over the heads of the audience.
This approach to creating the crowds was also used for other concerts throughout the film.
The Pinball Wizard sequence is particularly striking. Elton is performing, seated at a piano on stage and the camera is close on his face as he spins in circles through a montage of concerts, with transitions between multiple environments occurring mainly as the piano lid rotates past the camera. The sequence effectively portrays the chaos of Elton’s life as he tours incessantly from stadium to stadium.