Respect is the second autobiographical drama Cinesite completed within two years, following the Elton John biopic Rocketman in 2019.  The latest release follows the tempestuous and inspiring life of iconic soul singer Aretha Franklin. 

Cinesite’s challenge was to create concert crowds, with seamless period detail, for two important performances in Aretha’s career.  VFX supervisor Holger Voss worked closely with production VFX supervisor and producer Sean Nowlan, assisting on set and sharing the benefit of his prior experience as VFX supervisor on Rocketman.

Both concerts were shot at the Infinity Arena, a large ice hockey stadium in Atlanta.  The first recreated a date from the iconic Soul Together tour, at Madison Square Gardens in June 1968.  The original planned approach was to film 2D crowds in sections which could be assembled onto tiles.  However, when a moving camera technique was favoured on the day of filming, this approach was adapted; several crowd members had been scanned and these scans were subsequently used to create CG crowds and used across  as shots required.  Starting out with just 10 modelled characters, many more were created, complete with period hairdos and outfits, to overcome the potential problem of obvious twinning. 

Jennifer Hudson’s performance was captured from a hand-held, close-up angle on stage and also from a crane, further away and capturing a wider angle, which was panning horizontally behind the front rows of the crowd.  A combination of real crowds and sprites was used; whatever worked best for each individual shot.


The second sequence, recreating an earlier date in 1968 when Aretha was given a civil rights award by Martin Luther King Jr. at a presentation at Cobo Hall in Detroit, was captured in the same stadium, redressed and given a proscenium stage.  The front seven audience rows were filmed with extras, but everything behind them was topped up and added digitally by our team.

RESPECT was released on August 13th, 2021.

  • Starring: Albert Jones, Audra McDonald, Forest Whitaker, Hailey Kilgore, Heather Headley, Jennifer Hudson, Kimberly Scott, Leroy McClain, Marc Maron, Marlon Wayans, Mary J. Blige, Myk Watford, Saycon Sengbloh, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan, Tituss Burgess
  • Studio: MGM
  • Director: Liesl Tommy
  • Cinesite VFX Supervisor: Holger Voss