VFX: FuseFX's TVA work on <I>Loki</I>
Issue: July/August 2021

VFX: FuseFX's TVA work on Loki

FuseFX contributed numerous visual effects to Disney+’s latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Loki. Much of the studio’s work revolved around the Time Variance Authority and included various aspects of the TVA’s time-monitoring technology, including the creation of time doors as dimensional thresholds. FuseFX also realized the look and motion of the holographic time-stage sculpture, and moved characters forward and backwards in time with the technology of the time turner devices.

Wayne England is one of the VFX supervisors for the series and shares insight into the studio’s work.

How do VFX help shape the story in Loki?

“Visual effects were fundamental in shaping the story in Loki. The visual palette of cinematic storytelling has profoundly expanded into new realms of possibility, given what can now be represented on-screen. Those possibilities are directly linked to advancements in visual effects technology, of which Marvel are so clearly champions. Aware of the revolutionary tools of VFX, writers and creators are emboldened to realize new kinds of extraordinary narrative, while confident their visions of wondrous technologies, epic, multi-dimensional environments and supernatural phenomena can be realized with extraordinary realism.”  

How did you prepare for this project?

“Being well versed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a helpful resource to draw from and expand more deeply into. The main research was first studying all influences initially received from the shot footage, concept art and additional visual references, including costumes, and with special attention given to subtleties within the production design. For Loki, this helped in conceiving of the implied underlying, unified world of the TVA and its TVA technology. With these emergent sensibilities, it was then a process of researching themes and visual references specific to sequences and shots. 

“Fundamental to all research were the conversations shared with Marvel’s VFX supervisors, most notably Dan Deleeuw, which helped unfold shared conceptual understandings in realtime. For the pruning effect, it was after conversations shared that insights followed, suggesting we initiate research into nebula and interstellar phenomena such as the propagation of powerful forces and leaving residual wakes of transformed energy. In conversations regarding the time-stage hologram, it was suggested we research the phenomenon of murmuration as motion reference, which we explored very deeply. In addition to concept art received for Lamentis, we researched variations of atmospheric clouds. For so many of our shots in which unique appearances were called for, research for references was part of the process.”

Can you talk about how VFX helped create Lamentis? 

“For us specifically, our Lamentis sequences all took place inside the tent in which Loki and Sylvie landed, and inside the cabin in which they took refuge from meteors. Beginning with their time door arrival in the tent, we created all set extension matte paintings and clean-up for both interior environments and lighting enhancement integrations. There was also a good amount of character cleanup and lighting and environment integrations, particularly for Loki. Seen through the windows of both tent and cabin, we created a 3D set extension of the uniquely purple themed surrounding quarry walls, with sky and atmospheric effects and lighting, in addition to simulating external incoming meteors with exploding debris. 

“We also created several Loki magic effects and Sylvie’s attempted enchantment featured within the tents and cabin. Inside the cabin were very refined dynamic dust plumes and interactive dust wakes that added qualities in nuanced ways to the subtle, atmospheric character of the scene. Lastly, a featured event was the meteor that penetrated the cabin and flashed between Loki and Sylvie, before impacting and exploding into a plume of dust and debris. These two shots were a combination of 3D simulation and compositing.” 

How did you create the Time Variance Authority?

“3D particle systems development for the time-stage theater hologram sequences and pruning FX. 3D/2D development for the time-doors, time-collars and time stage projector device. 2D comp development for the creation of the time-turner effect and time stick effects. And a good amount of character integration work with detailed clean up, in addition to set extension and clean up for environments within the TVA headquarters.”  

What other key VFX elements did the FuseFX team work on?

“The time doors are an interesting case study. We received a Nuke file and some renderings from a collaborating studio vendor, of early-stage development helpful in representing the fundamental concepts. Our internal time-door development arc however progressed into a highly detailed and creative evolution, with subtle 3D refractive-volumetric depth cues, precise surface texturing, specific edge-motion highlights, refinement to the echoing forward and backwards of characters and objects at the threshold of the time doors. The scene interactive reflection and lighting effects of the time doors played beautifully with the development of their dramatic (chromatic aberration enhanced) opening and closing, and the residual energy edge-effects from the volumes of characters passing through the threshold. Those are big components of the time-doors that made their integration into our scenes look so beautifully compelling and dynamic. 

“Also something to note, Marvel established a collaborative process between VFX vendors. During development, upon request by Marvel, advancements or developed systems from a studio would be uploaded to the project’s secure database, from which aspects of development, such as the time doors, would be shared with the other studios to reference and integrate.”

What do you feel was the biggest challenge on this project?

“The most complex challenge was the comprehensive functionality we were tasked with and evolved into, the time-stage hologram particle system.”

Is there anything else you would like to add?

“A special thanks and congratulations to the entire Loki FuseFX team. What an honor to contribute to the incredible, expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe!”