Kings of Wakanda

Dis­cover how Luma Pic­tures and Scan­line VFX cre­ated the world of Black Pan­ther

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

The char­ac­ter of Black Pan­ther has fi­nally come out with his own film. in his in­au­gu­ral ap­pear­ance, the su­per­hero was por­trayed by Chad­wick Bose­man in Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, where he be­came the king of Wakanda, a fic­tional east African na­tion with the most ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy in the Marvel cin­e­matic uni­verse. in fact, Black Pan­ther was the first black su­per­hero to ap­pear in a main­stream comic when he was cre­ated by stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966.

Luma Pic­tures’ work in Black Pan­ther in­volves two ma­jor se­quences, in­clud­ing a mas­sive car chase around Bu­san in south Korea that com­prises over 200 shots. 3d artist spoke with Luma Pic­tures’ Mel­bourne VFX su­per­vi­sor Bren­dan seals and Los An­ge­les VFX su­per­vi­sor Kevin souls as they both over­saw the creative for the film. We also man­aged to catch up with Bryan grill at scan­line VFX to dis­cuss en­vi­ron­ments. Method stu­dio, ILM, Dig­i­tal Do­main and some other VFX stu­dios also con­trib­uted to this ma­jor pro­duc­tion.

“The Bu­san se­quence is based on a prac­ti­cal lo­ca­tion,” seals says, “but in the per­for­mance of the Black Pan­ther char­ac­ter, there were things that were too dan­ger­ous for the stunt crew.” There was a need to re-create city en­vi­ron­ments as well as cam­era moves, and this gave Luma the chance to em­pha­sise and heighten the en­ergy of the ac­tion. “These car chases are fast-cut, fast-paced,” seals adds.

con­struct­ing the Lexus

When Luma Pic­tures cre­ated the Cg Lexus car, it needed to be in­dis­tin­guish­able from a real car, and it had to be able to be more and more dam­aged as they went fur­ther into the se­quence.

As each bul­let hits the pan­els or the wind­shield, or even when Black Pan­ther is tear­ing into it with his claws, the car needed to be com­pletely con­vinc­ing. “We had to build sev­eral ver­sions of the ve­hi­cle in dif­fer­ent dam­aged states to play out the con­ti­nu­ity,” seals ex­plains.

Dur­ing pro­duc­tion, Lexus pro­vided two cars for Luma Pic­tures, both of which they cre­ated full Cg build-outs from. “Luma built these im­mac­u­late, pris­tine Lexus cars in Cg, yet with all things ac­tion-re­lated, they had to be de­stroyed,” says seals. “They were the Lexus gsf and the Lexus LC-500, both smashed.” in an­other stunt scene, they cross the Bu­san Di­a­mond Bridge when the car and Black Pan­ther flip up into the air close to cam­era in slow mo­tion. The Lexus is rolling, crash­ing and on fire.

The VFX on-set crew also had an ar­ray car built – a stripped-down Corvette. They mounted 360-de­gree cam­era rigs at dif­fer­ent heights and cap­tured these panora­mas as they drove down the streets where the big se­quences were filmed. “We were able to bring those plates in, stitch them to­gether, ei­ther for en­vi­ron­ment re­flec­tion or set re­con­struc­tions,” ex­plains souls. “When we have our Cg cars driv­ing down the street, all the in­for­ma­tion that car would have seen would have re­flected.”

the suit

in a Marvel movie, there’s al­ways go­ing to be a suit that’s phys­i­cally built as well as cre­ated in Cg, and this also has to be a tan­gi­ble de­sign that some­one is able to wear. “The ac­tors on set need to get into and out of the suit com­fort­ably. The crew also has to know what it will look like in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments,” ex­plains seals.

on set, ac­tor Chad­wick Bose­man wore a Black Pan­ther suit for ref­er­ence. “But there’s also the de­sign cy­cle to be aware of, af­ter the shoot is com­pleted. The Pan­ther char­ac­ter is in ev­ery sin­gle shot and has to be mod­i­fi­able af­ter the shoot if re­quired. The de­sign fea­tures and some­times the pro­por­tions of the shoul­ders and head may be changed to make this seem less like a guy in a suit, and more an ac­tual sep­a­rate char­ac­ter. This should look like a skin-tight ‘nanobot’ suit,” seals adds.

“This suit is also a shared as­set,” says Kevin souls. “Like many Marvel projects, there are mul­ti­ple ven­dors shar­ing as­sets with the same shared goal. ob­vi­ously the chal­lenge here is adopt­ing these as­sets into our pipe­line while de­vel­op­ing it in the shared pipe­line. We set it up with our look de­vel­op­ment team within the Arnold ren­der en­gine with the goal of it be­ing pho­to­real and in­dis­tin­guish­able from the real as­set. The main chal­lenge along the way was the temp­ta­tion to de­vi­ate from the orig­i­nal in­ten­tion of the prac­ti­cal suit.”

casino rumble

in the casino se­quence, the one-armed Klaue char­ac­ter, played by Andy serkis, is in­tro­duced

and Black Pan­ther tracks him down. Klaue has a weapon hid­den in­side his ar­ti­fi­cial arm based on Wakan­dan tech­nol­ogy, which was stolen from Black Pan­ther. scan­line VFX worked to dig­i­tally re­move Klaue’s left arm, clean up his shirt, add some cloth sim­u­la­tion of that shirt of a par­tic­u­lar thick tex­ture, then fix the false arm rem­nants. orig­i­nally, Klaue lost his arm in an ear­lier Marvel fran­chise movie, Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. He had a false arm that is made of a fic­tional metal that fea­tures widely in Marvel comic sto­ries – Vi­bra­nium.

This weapon arm gun sets off more of a force than an elec­tri­cal charge or bul­let. it’s the sound waves that re­ver­ber­ate through the en­vi­ron­ment, where they can hit an ob­ject and break it to pieces – the force is made up of rip­ples in space. There also is a fran­tic gun bat­tle that is shot in a gi­ant two-storey casino. in­side and out­side of this, the two sides have a full-on al­ter­ca­tion and gun bat­tle.

“The in­tent was that they were go­ing to shoot the casino rumble as one con­tin­u­ous shot,” ex­plains seals. “This was all shot in or­der, so we could gather as much data as we could, then fig­ure out when one take could end, and start again where the last cam­era po­si­tion was on the pre­vi­ous shot.

“We used Cg tran­si­tions, ex­tras and some mo­tion blur­ring. We also built dig­i­tal ceil­ings and dig­i­tal lights as well as gen­er­at­ing Cg de­struc­tion of var­i­ous pan­els. There are sev­eral takeovers by dig­i­tal char­ac­ters pep­pered through­out Black Pan­ther where they have to do im­pos­si­ble things, like jump­ing down to the first floor dur­ing a fight.”

car Jumps

At the end of this casino se­quence, Black Pan­ther runs out of the casino and his suit gen­er­ates from the nanobots un­der­neath the tuxedo. As they form, the tuxedo burns off and drops to the ground. As his suit con­tin­ues to form, he jumps into the full Cg car and drives out of the scene. Luma Pic­tures built three Cg suits, in­clud­ing the vir­tual hu­man ver­sion of Black Pan­ther in his tuxedo.

“firstly,” ex­plains souls, “we cap­tured Bose­man as Black Pan­ther run­ning out of the casino. We mo­tion cap­tured him and then re­placed all of his body with a Cg run­ner, ex­cept for his face. As he is run­ning, that suit is a full cloth sim­u­la­tion that was gen­er­ated to com­pletely match a tuxedo be­ing worn by Bose­man as he ran in the wind. The suit tears along the seams, falls off and re­veals the still-form­ing Pan­ther suit. in ad­di­tion to that, the jump, the car and the casino, there is a very ex­pan­sive set ex­ten­sion in this street scene. We worked on that scene for at least six months.”

There are sev­eral takeovers by dig­i­tal char­ac­ters pep­pered through­out Black Pan­ther

usd in katana

Luma Pic­tures has been ac­tive with the use of Uni­ver­sal scene De­scrip­tion in Katana dur­ing pro­duc­tion. “for the first time, we are us­ing Katana ex­clu­sively for a show, and adopt­ing it into our light­ing pipe­line,” says souls.

“The new Pixar stan­dard al­lows us to pub­lish ev­ery­thing into a sin­gle lo­ca­tion and con­trol our as­sets much more care­fully. it re­quired us to write a se­ries of tools for ex­port­ing to Maya or ex­port­ing from Hou­dini. We did have to go to our team to make sure all the data was trans­ferred cor­rectly. We are prob­a­bly push­ing more data in our scenes than we ever have be­fore and in a much more con­trolled way.”

the king’s chal­lenges

There are two key se­quences that take place in the se­cret city of Wakanda. one fea­tures T’challa fight­ing for his right to be king. The lo­ca­tion for these fights be­gan with what was cre­ated on set in At­lanta. The pro­duc­tion de­signer based it on a canyon in Africa that looked like it had ac­tive wa­ter­falls a long time ago but had dried out over the cen­turies. There are slabs of sed­i­men­tary rocks for cast mem­bers to stand at var­i­ous lev­els, like in an arena.

The Vic­to­ria falls and iguazu falls rock ref­er­ences were a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and a work­ing wa­ter­fall with all the right rock plat­forms, colours and sizes needed to be found. “The search brought up a per­fect site in the north­ern Ter­ri­tory in Aus­tralia. A place called Jim Jim falls, part of Kakadu na­tional Park, had all the right el­e­ments, so a guy was sent down there to shoot a whole round of ref­er­ence pho­tog­ra­phy of the rocks and the sur­round­ing ar­eas. We brought all this in­for­ma­tion back to Marvel,” says grill.

“We said we reckon this would be re­ally great ref­er­ence to build out the rest of the canyon and the ar­eas. They agreed and this solid ref­er­ence be­came the ori­gin for the en­tire mile-long ap­proach and sur­rounds to this very im­por­tant lo­ca­tion in that se­quence. Even though we es­sen­tially built it out from this and made it up, it ticked all the boxes.”

scan­line VFX had up to 50 dif­fer­ent sizes of wa­ter­falls to sim­u­late in flow­line, their pro­pri­etary soft­ware, but ev­ery­thing was based on an en­vi­ron­ment that was still be­ing nailed down. “Also, the way the wa­ter landed on the rocks was dif­fer­ent, as well as light­ing the two ma­jor set­ups. one was in the mid­dle of the day and the other was lit for to­wards sun­set. on top of the wa­ter in the falls area, there were four dif­fer­ent tribes at­tend­ing these cer­e­monies,” adds grill. “Each had dif­fer­ent colours, de­signed cos­tumes and spe­cific looks. Hun­dreds of as­sets all over the place, gen­er­ated in the pipe­line. There cer­tainly was a lot hap­pen­ing.”

The new Pixar stan­dard al­lows us to pub­lish ev­ery­thing into a sin­gle lo­ca­tion and con­trol our as­sets much more care­fully

Black Pan­ther holds on tight to the Lexus as it races through Bu­san dur­ing a car chase

Black Pan­ther’s suit was both prac­ti­cal and tweaked in Cg

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