Written by Tom Deehan on May 15, 2014. Posted in Production News

New Godzilla movie builds San Francisco on location in Vancouver

Legendary Pictures built San Francisco on location in Vancouver for Gareth Edwards’ new adaptation of monster movie Godzilla. British Columbia also doubled for settings including Japan and the Philippines, while Hawaii stood in for the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific.

Vancouver became the production’s main filming location and Burnaby’s Canadian Motion Picture Park was used for extensive studio work. The studio’s facilities include 11 sound stages of up to 36,000 square feet and an 18-acre back lot.

Recreating San Francisco on the back lot, Production Designer Owen Paterson and his team built a Chinatown street, a giant sinkhole set beneath the city for a key action sequence and also a 400-foot section of the Golden Gate Bridge.

High-end panorama photos taken of the real San Francisco skyline were used to build a 3D map of the city that was later inserted into the background of sequences shot on the bridge set in Vancouver.

“This technique gives you a real city that is accurate down to every piece of mortar in a brick building,” says Visual Effects Supervisor Jim Rygiel: “So, using that, we were able to composite the live action shots with the keyframe-animated monsters destroying digital buildings into a seamless whole.”

Vancouver became the production’s main filming location and Burnaby’s Canadian Motion Picture Park was used for extensive studio work.

Edwards also filmed on location in and around the city. The Vancouver Convention Center stood in for the international airports of both Honolulu and Tokyo, while downtown parts of the city became San Francisco’s financial district.

Other locations included the historic but sparsely-populated fishing settlement of Finn Slough, a short distance south of central Vancouver, which stood in for a quarantined part of Tokyo.

Following the Canadian leg of the shoot, Edwards and his team relocated to Hawaii. Eastern Oahu was used as a double for the remote Marshall Islands and the production also closed the Waikiki Beachfront for half a day to shoot dramatic scenes as crowds flee an approaching tsunami.

The USS Missouri, now used as a “floating memorial” in remembrance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, doubled for the battleship that tracks Godzilla’s movements across the Pacific to the California coast. An adjacent Air Force base provided a C-17 aircraft for another key action sequence built around a HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) military parachute jump.

British Columbia offers a base filming incentive of 33%, applicable to local labour costs. The programme has contributed to British Columbia becoming western Canada's main production hub, competing with Ontario and Quebec in the east.

San Francisco is a frequent story setting for both features and TV shows, but few productions actually film there for any length of time. The city lacks studio infrastructure and California’s filming incentive programme is very limited compared to cities such as Vancouver, New York, New Orleans and Toronto.

(Images: Kimberley French/Legendary Pictures Productions/Warner Bros Entertainment)

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