New Line Cinema’s Black Adam represents the DC villain’s first feature film. Dwayne Johnson stars in the action adventure, which was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was bestowed with the powers of the gods, but after using them for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed and Black Adam has gone from man, to myth, to legend. Now released, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone.
Digital Domain helped shape the DC villain’s power, strength and speed, as well as contributed to the creation and destruction of several large-scale environments in and around the surrounding city of Shiruta. According to visual effects supervisor Nikos Kalaitzidis, Digital Domain’s work spanned approximately 500 visual effects shots, underpinning several dramatic key moments throughout the film.
In once sequence, Black Adam awakens in the Rock of Eternity. This all-CG environment was created using set extensions and depicts a chamber where intricately-sculpted walls invoked the seven deadly sins. This sequence includes destruction, CG cloth shredding and an electrocuted mercenary.
The studio worked on several sequences set inside and outside of Adrianna’s apartment, including a destructive fight between Black Adam and Hawkman. Additional work by the studio includes Black Adam’s prisoner interrogation in the storm clouds; Shiruta City asset creation of the palace exterior and Shiruta statue; and the mine rescue. The latter sequence features three distinct representations of the large, modern-day Eternium mine-excavation environments: a birds-eye view exterior, with large-scale destruction; an interior that includes a slo-mo-bullet-save sequence; and a post-explosion sequence. Together, they represent 150 VFX shots.
Digital Domain also contributed to several Justice Society characters. An all-CG Hawkman was created, featuring rigged wings and simulated feathers. Atom Smasher scales in size and protects Cyclone in the mine. And an all-CG Dr. Fate was created to best show off his alien powers, which include transporting, transforming and shielding. In addition, the studio added a CG Dr. Fate suit to the live-action Pierce Brosnan.
For Black Adam, Tippett Studio designed and created the molten creation of the crown of Sabbac, as well as the hellscape in which various demons - designed by the Aaron Simms company - inhabit. Tippett used Isotropix’s Clarisse for the environment creation and Autodesk’s Maya for keyframe animation. Foundry’s Katana and Pixar’s Renderman were used for texturing and rendering for the demon characters.
According to Tippett Studio VFX supervisor Chris Morley, the studio had just finished up work on Phil Tippett's Mad God, and were well versed in creating dark, wet, uninviting environments.
“For the hellish environment, we wanted it to feel dark, misty and oppressive,” Morley recalls. “We also wanted a feeling of wetness to contrast the vast fields of molten ore. In addition to jagged volcanic rock detail, we dropped thousands of ambiguous, crusty human corpses all over the rock surfaces. They were intended to be a textural element that, when viewed closely or on a big screen, the viewer would feel that they were bodies. At Tippett Studio, we often use the line, ‘It's more important that the viewer feels it, not necessarily see it.’ We also use ‘cinematic immunity’ when things don't match our physical reality, like the inverted rainfall in the hellscape.”
Tippett pushed their effects animation team to create realistic simulations for the churning molten Eternium held within a crucible, as well as rain. Effects animators used SideFX’s Houdini Software to create molten ore and rain volumes to fill out the cavernous and sharp environment.
"It was great to have a one off sequence that we would really put a Tippett Studio stamp on,” says Morley. “Realizing the creation of the crown of Sabbac was a fantastic thing to be able to contribute, as it is so important to the storyline. Bill Westenhofer and Jaume Collet-Serra were a pleasure to work with, they gave us enough creative freedom to play while keeping us on the right track toward completion."