The third act of the movie is a choreographed train chase in a constantly changing environment without much dialogue. The challenge was two-pronged for ILM’s team: the work had to be invisible – everyone knows what forests mountains and hills look like, so there is no room for suspension of disbelief – and it had to be done on three to four hundred shots and in which the action is staged atop a speeding train. Director Gore Verbinski instructed the ILM team to take people on a real ride, keep it believable, but be as big, bold and dramatic as possible.
Leveraging the work that ILM did on Rango, and before that, on Avatar, ILM’s team decided to move to 3ds Max with V-ray as the renderer. This new pipeline enabled ILM to utilize high quality photography as reference material, hand painting techniques and SpeedTree vegetation combined with in-house tools to create believable and natural looking digital environments. The Lone Ranger is an example of yet another ILM project where the work is invisible to its audience; more proof that other side of movie magic is sometimes just as difficult and rewarding to create as aliens, spaceships, explosions and superheroes.