Vince Papale played football in high
school, but never had the chance in college. As a 30-year-old
bartender, he earned a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles — and
a place in NFL history. Invincible,
the 2006 film based on his story, required stadium football
scenes. In 1976, the Eagles were playing in Veteran's stadium,
which was torn down before the production of the film. Matte
World Digital provided the Vet, the crowds, and matte paintings
to establish the time and place.
A college stadium in Philadelphia stood in for the Vet in football
scenes. Matte World used original Architectural drawings
to recreate the upper story, modified to match the footprint
of the smaller stadium. The lower story was left as-is, so that
closer shots could be used without vfx, and so that real people
could be seen occupying the lower seats.
To fill the rest of the seats, we chose to use a "sprite" system,
rather than masses of CGI characters. We felt the performance
of real people would look more natural in the background of
the football shots. Realism is always our goal, particularly
in a period film where any "digital" look would be out of place.
We devised a system of shooting actors
with multiple cameras, organizing the footage into the various
camera angles, lighting conditions, costume types, and reactions.
We drew from our crew, friends, and family for the crowds.
Scott Liedka of Tweak Films is shown, top left (and about
5,000 times in crowd shots!). Tweak provided pipeline tools
and compositing for the show. Glen Cotter, second from right
in top row, is a lead 3D artist at Matte World.
This large footage library fed a pipeline
that could populate the model with randomized segments. The
CGI artist could set parameters to restrict the samples to
an appropriate type of clip, and mix different ratios of these
parameters. For example, we found that it never looked right
to have everyone cheering at once. There needed to
always be a percentage of people sitting quietly.
The finished shot, with the CGI stadium,
crowds, and a sky replacement, along with some 3D flags. This
shot was especially challenging, as it was filmed in slow motion,
so our not-digital crowds had to be slowed down to fit the foreground
Place your mouse over the images to
see "before and after" comparisons for each shot.
At the beginning of the film, the Eagles
are seen losing the last game of a losing season. They walk
off the field as fans boo and throw food at the team. MWD added
the upper stadium, crowds, and falling snow. These early scenes
were filmed from a bystander's perspective, in contrast to scenes
after Vince makes the team, which show the action from a player's
mid-field point of view.
Additional scenes took place in Texas Stadium
in Dallas. This stadium still stands and the football action
was filmed there. Sixty-five thousand extras were not in the
budget, so again our sprites were used to fill the seats. We
also changed modern features back to the 1976 look of the location.
This extremely wide shot was assembled from three plates of
the football action.
Vince' first game does not go well, and
afterward he is seen getting off the bus in front Veteran's
Stadium. The action was filmed in an empty parking lot. Our
matte painting is designed to make the Vet look like a "shining
jewel", to emphasize that Vince still feels like an outsider.
On location, the lowest seats were filled
with extras. In a closer shot the extras might be bunched
together to back the action, but here they serve mostly as
scale and color reference.
In his hometown NFL debut, Vince makes
several key plays that cement his place on the team, and lead
directly to a dramatic win on the first home game of the year.
After the first of those plays, Vince points to his buddies
who for years had been watching the team from the "Eagles
Nest" high in the bleachers. Before this game, Vince would
have been in those seats, too.