The Wolverine (2013), “Train Fight”
Fight sequences staged atop speeding cars, trucks, and trains are often too dangerous to film for real, so productions shoot actors against green or blue screen and add in the background environment later. The risk, as with the addition of any foreign element, is looking fake. To avoid that problem in The Wolverine’s Tokyo train-top fight, the effects artists at Weta Digital utilized real background environments, combined with green-screen wire-work stunts, for the most visceral action possible.
What they devised was a way to shoot the necessary backgrounds -- basically streetscapes and buildings whizzing by as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine fights off his adversaries atop the train -- from a van driving along an elevated freeway in Shinjuku, Japan. A specialized eight-camera array of digital film cameras was rigged to the top of the vehicle to acquire the highest resolution possible. Sped up, the footage looked like the train was going at 300km an hour like a real bullet train.
The real backgrounds were just the beginning. Weta Digital took footage from all eight cameras and stitched together the best angles, then enhanced the footage with extra CGI buildings, traffic, changing signs, and city details where needed. Further additions came in the form of low-hanging gantries that Wolverine and the bad guys constantly had to avoid. Jackman provided the grunting to sell it.