Paul Walker was a key part of the Fast and Furious franchise from the beginning, but the film series was forced to move on without him when Walker died in a car accident during the production of Furious 7. Faced with a near impossible task, the filmmakers knew that to do justice to the actor and the fans of the franchise, it was going to have to do something quite special to say goodbye to Walker in the movie.
Of course, with Paul Walker gone, that meant that digital effects would be necessary so that the movie could create his likeness for the very scenes that would be used to say farewell. Digital effects artist Martin Hill worked on creating the sequence, and he's quite proud of what the team at WETA was able to accomplish. According to Hill...
The whole remit was to make sure that in the 300 or so shots that we made of Paul Walker was that no one could tell. And by and large, people couldn't. We'd put this enormous amount of work and, to a certain extent, no one noticed. But that's essentially the job, and I'm really proud of all the work that went in that.
Martin Hill tells ComicBook.com that it was vitally important that every shot be perfect because even a single bad shot would have been enough to take people out of the experience and realize they were looking at a digital effect. Alternative versions of various shots, that were apparently easier to create, were made in case the main effects didn't end up looking good enough. Although, Hill says few if any of those alternate shots were used because the primary shots worked out really well.
Creating human characters digitally is technology that has been around for a while and various digital effects houses have been doing it to varying degrees for years. However, Hill says that in 2013 when this work was being done the technology wasn't quite in the place it needed to be to make these shots believable, so a lot of additional work was done to improve the existing technology in order to make it all work.
For the most part, it's true. The final cut works remarkably well. Check out the finale of Furious 7 below.
The Fast & Furious franchise has continued on without Paul Walker. The Fate of the Furious was another massive international hit. Hobbs & Shaw will be the first spinoff movie coming later this summer. At least two more proper Fast & Furious movies are planned for the future with part nine coming in 2020.