AMPC pulls out all the stops to create iconic battles in places real and fictional for the breakout comic-book movie hit By Trevor Hogg.
n iconic female superhero gets acquainted with the greed and violence of mankind when German soldiers invade her island homeland and she journeys to Europe in an effort to bring World War I to an end. Under the direction of filmmaker Patty Jenkins ( Monster) and supervision of Bill Westenhofer ( Life of Pi), MPC Visual Effects Supervisor Jessica Norman oversaw the beach battle, no man’s land and Belgian village sequences featured in Warner Bros.’ DC Comics adaptation, Wonder Woman.
While trying to capture American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), German soldiers encounter military resistance on Themyscira from the Amazons, who had rescued Trevor from a plane crash.
“They had found on the east coast of Italy an impressive cliff at the backend of the beach,” says Norman. “It was not practical to shoot that because it was narrow and hard to get to, so they ended up shooting on the west coast of Italy on two beaches and dropped in the cliffs. The beaches we were shooting at weren’t big enough. We had to do a longer beach then replace and extend the water.”
The battle occurs in the daytime. “We were shooting there in April and throughout the day the lighting was changing a lot. It meant that we couldn’t have one lighting setup and render the whole scene.”
A lot of time was spent in roto animation. “The two stunt doubles for Diana (Gal Gadot) had different proportions with each other and Gal Gadot,” says Norman. “It gets tricky when you do work on face replacements. Often you can’t just replace the face because the neck, chin and even how it fits on the shoulders is changing.”
The weapon of choice for the Amazons is the arrow. “Quite a few of them are not just shooting one, but three at a time,” says Norman. “It’s more animation work because you get to actually see the arrow. It ends up being a character.
Complicating matters were editorial changes. “At that stage, they had not always decided on the take or what version would be used, so there were times where we didn’t know exactly what the lighting would be. You do your best trying to match the lighting with the greenscreen stage. Sometimes what we ended up doing was replacing some of the live action to get the right kind of lighting and for things to match.”
Norman adds: “If the beach battle had been shot entirely on a greenscreen stage, it would have looked different. Personally, I much prefer when you do it like this, because there’s a real outdoor feeling.”
Smoke and Mirrors Diana crosses through no man’s land to attack the German soldiers. “That scene was particularly tough to shoot,” says Norman. “It was November-December time in London and we were so cold in a muddy field. It’s particularly rewarding that the scene turned out nice.”
The Allied and German trenches were built along with no man’s land at Leavesden Studios. “When you fly across, it is fully CG,” says Norman. “There was greenscreen at either end of the German and Allied trenches that we extended. They shot Gal Gadot on a treadmill on a greenscreen stage where we ended up having to replace her shoes because she was wearing trainers. Then we did a CG environment to put behind her.”
“On set, they shot with a lot of practical effects, like explosions, but we added a lot more,” says Norman. “Her shield had interactive sparks going off of it and vibrated to making it feel more real. On top of that, we added a lot of tracer fire, ground impacts and interactive lighting. Because there were so many tracers, we ended up animating and lighting them in order to get interactive lighting onto the characters and environment.”
The principal photography for the sequence followed closely the extensive previz. “We had a good