Anyone who’s seen a tennis match knows it can be a great spectacle, but bringing that energy to a movie is no easy feat. That’s exactly what the team behind the new movie Challengers faced. Director Luca Guadagnino (known for Call Me By Your Name) wanted to create an experience that makes viewers feel like they’re right in the middle of the action — he even pulled it off in a big way.

A still from Challengers (Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The director has created sequences that capture the athleticism, tension, and emotions of the sport. But the film goes a step further in one key scene by placing viewers directly in the action. The camera takes the point-of-view of a tennis ball as it’s hit back and forth between the two main characters.

The Unbelievable Filming Method Behind the Fancy Camera Work in Challengers

Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor in a still from Challengers (Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Zendaya‘s recent sports flick, Challengers is impressing audiences with its realistic and action-packed tennis scenes. During a crucial moment in a match between players Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor), the camera becomes a tennis ball itself. As the ball gets hit back and forth between the two pros, the camera swoops, spins, and bounces along with it.

Achieving this wasn’t easy. In an interview with IndieWire, Brian Drewes, the film’s visual effects supervisor, explained the intricate process behind the scenes. That seemingly seamless 24-second shot was actually stitched together from 23 different shots. They filmed for five hours using a special camera on a 30-foot crane that moved back and forth across the court, following the ball’s path.

But filming was just the start. The raw footage needed extensive digital work. VFX artists added hundreds of computer-generated extras and stadium details, even replacing stand-in doubles with the actors’ faces and tennis gear. They then smoothed out the camera motion, and adjusted the lighting to match natural changes during filming.

Luca Guadagnino’s Vision was to Put the Audience in the Ball’s Place

Luca Guadagnino
Luca Guadagnino (Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Maximilian Bühn)

The mastermind behind this unique shot is director Luca Guadagnino. When interviewed by Indiewire, Brian Drewes revealed the director’s initial vision for the scene. “In our very first meeting, Luca described it super clearly: The audience needs to ‘BE THE BALL!’” Drewes explained.

They discussed the scene’s importance within the film’s narrative (those in the know will understand) and brainstormed cool moments to include. It was actually a way to make the audience feel the intensity and pressure that players experience during a high-stakes match.

Challengers is now available to rent/purchase on Prime Video and Apple TV+.

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