Infinite Zoom: How the Opening of 'Limitless' Was Created

The film Limitless topped the box office after its opening week, and the movie's opening sequence may go down in history as one of the most memorable and immersive shots of all time.

Limitless opens with a continuous, seemingly endless zoom shot that starts as if the camera has been dropped off a skyscraper balcony, then weaves through the streets of New York City, past pedestrians, under construction scaffoldings, though blocks and blocks of blinking lights and hubbub, through the back windows of taxi cabs and out through their front windshields, through Harlem, into Times Square, and then right into a glowing Jumbotron. You are gliding at street level through solid objects, and there isn't much visual evidence of computer-generated trickery.

But the shot doesn't end there. It keeps going, sharply and steadily through the inner workings of a human brain, which then morphs into a bird's eye view of Manhattan, drops down onto the roof of a high-rise, and somehow leaves you looking up at the sky. This is not the kind of sequence you can shoot with a regular camera. In fact, this is not the kind of sequence you can shoot with the Hubble telescope--unless it was somehow made of a subatomic particle, had flawless continuous autofocus, packed a bajorllion-megapixel sensor, and also had teleportation powers.

This is the kind of sequence that makes you wonder, "how the hell did they do that?"

After seeing the film, I was determined to find out. I spoke to Visual Effects Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor , both of whom worked on the title sequence and other effects as part of the Limitless crew. Comen and Carras led the team that stitched together, rotoscoped, and composited the sequence, and they provided some fascinating insight on how the sequence came together from the script to the direction to the camera setup to the extensive post-production process.

PCW: How did the idea for the sequence come about?