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Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Ethan Hunt: "You mind telling me why you broke me out"?

Key Credits

  • RELEASED: 2011
  • CLIENT: Industrial Light & Magic
  • STUDIO: Paramount Pictures
  • DIRECTOR: Brad Bird
  • VFX SUPERVISOR: John Knoll
  • ILM VFX PRODUCER: Amy Beresford
  • VFX SUPERVISOR: Dave Morley
  • VFX PRODUCER: Claudia Lecaros

For the fourth installment of the renowned Mission: Impossible franchise ‘Ghost Protocol’, Fuel worked with John Knoll, Lindy DeQuatrro and Industrial Light & Magic, to deliver 92 shots across three sequences for the Paramount blockbuster.

Fuel’s main sequence involved some challenging plate manipulation and digital set extension work, as we see Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) scaling the glass exterior of the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, smashing through the window of a lofty server room, and then rappelling back down.


It was essential to John Knoll that the authenticity of the in-camera stunts be retained (and yes, Tom Cruise did his own stunts!) and that intercut shots unable to be filmed on the actual Burj would be able to cut together seamlessly. The trick though, is that the Burj is essentially the biggest mirror in the world and is lined with protruding stainless steel ribs, so Fuel’s CG team was put to the test working in a mirror maze of reflected detail against a Dubai city desert backdrop – in 4K IMAX resolution.


Fuel’s VFX Supervisor Dave Morley: “To achieve the believability of this iconic sequence, for most shots we roto’d Tom off the plate and rendered CG sections of the building, with reflections of Dubai city and it’s surrounding desert, to track back into the original plate. This seemed to be a better approach than painting out the in-camera wires and rigs – with so many reflections and reflections of reflections, there was no room for error at 4K. Sometimes the easiest way to do things is the hardest way, and I have to pay respects to our team that spent many months concentrating on some very fine detail!”


To create the iconic and obligatory ‘mask maker’, Fuel FX artists used Houdini to build and rig a CG ‘pin cushion’ head, that expanded a latex covering to mimic the facial features of the person fed into the machine. Further shots of the mask maker reveal the latex has set in and is being carved away by automated blades, to reveal finer and finer details in the mask – the latex shavings were particle FX generated in Maya. Fluid FX were then used to create the shot where the mask maker has malfunctioned and sprayed blotches of bright paint across the two masks.