For The Big Short writer/director Adam McKay was looking for a specific effect to move the narrative forward. Not afraid to use unconventional effects as evidenced by the inclusion of cameos by Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez, and Richard Thaler, who break the fourth wall to explain complex financial concepts, McKay sought to depict the passage of time through a massive timelapse sequence while skyscrapers rise and take over the Manhattan skyline.
Starting with 8K plates shot by DP Andrew Walker in New York, ILM’s visual effects team digitally erased prominent buildings through the city to create the skyline of the past, rewinding 20-30 years from present day Manhattan. The team then painstakingly re-constructed a variety of buildings from base to the roof and the inside out as skyjack cranes speedily swing to and from lifting construction material to the site. Starting with the erection of the steel girder skeletons and enclosing them with sleek glass facades. The end effect is effectively used in a montage in the film showing decades passing in mere seconds.