SANTA MONICA — Visual effects facility Luma Pictures reunited with a familiar cast of characters on Marvel Studios’ highly anticipated “The Avengers,” using CGI to integrate a wide range of VFX.
Having previously worked on “Captain America” and “Thor,” Luma has developed a strong kinship with the Marvel Universe and jumped at the opportunity to add their unique brand of computer graphics and visual effects to the new film. Luma’s work on “The Avengers” includes the creation and extension of the Helicarrier ship bridge during pivotal scenes, tornado effects and donning of Thor’s mystical armor, and multiple exterior environments.
The bulk of Luma’s work on “The Avengers” came in extending and enhancing the bridge of the Helicarrier, including environmental exteriors seen through the large forward windows. Production built out the first level of a large bridge set, complete with traditional monitors and some high-tech, semi-transparent glass panel displays. Luma extended this first level upward to a second story of catwalks, added a ceiling, and continued structural components upwards. For much of the sequence, Luma added volumetric clouds and a full-CG environment to the exterior seen through the ship’s sweeping glass hull.
“For us, the most artistically engaging scene was the wide shot of Thor and Coulson on the Helicarrier bridge at night. This shot encompassed every little detail of the bridge, and required a lot of rigorous lighting and look development to capture a realistic look. The asset was ‘heavy’ and contained a lot of metallic materials with blurry reflections, which are notoriously difficult to render clean,” said Payam Shohadai, Executive VFX Supervisor.
Luma Pictures also worked with Thor’s character directly, adding several shots of the manifestation of his magical armor in the center of a tornado. These shots required large-scale swirling clouds, dust, lighting effects and an entire simulated field of plants.
The relationship between Marvel and Luma has been built over the past few years.
“We started our interaction with Marvel with a large sequence on ‘Thor’ (350 shots), which focused on the Destroyer and the Bifrost arrival effect. They were really happy with our collaborative process and quality of work, which led to helping out on a few shots in ‘Captain America,’ which in turn led around 200 shots on ‘The Avengers,’” said Senior Producer, Steven Swanson.
Luma’s work with the Marvel Universe spans several studios, including work for Twentieth Century FOX for the X-Men franchise, and to date they have touched upon: Banshee (Effects), Havok (Effects), Thor (Hammer and Digital Double), Destroyer (Full CG), Darwin (Gills + Carapace + Evolution Effects), Creed (Digital Double), Wolverine (Claws, Healing), Cyclops (Effects), Iron Man (Digital Double) and Hawkeye (CG arrows).
Luma Pictures utilizes some workflows that are unique in film VFX and have integrated Arnold rendering software into their everyday processes.
“This was the third full show for us using Arnold, and we continued to develop our tools and techniques around this exciting renderer,” said Richard Sutherland, CG Supervisor. “To speed workflow during our look development phase, we developed an illumination caching system for preview renders, and tweaked the translation of large numbers of objects. For the exterior shots, with large-scale volumetric clouds, we rebuilt and enhanced a cloud building system based on Maya fluids. There were several shots of Thor summoning a Thor-nado, which gave us a chance to brush off and improve some of our FumeFX to Maya pipeline.”