Director: Taika Waititi
Thor Ragnarok VFX Done By
Production VFX Supervisor is Jake Morrison
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by Framestore
Framestore reunited with Marvel Studios to deliver the climactic final act of Thor: Ragnarok, producing 459 shots of heavy-duty VFX and a host of fully-CG characters. Framestore team constructed an entirely CG Asgard environment containing over 9,000 buildings, mostly laid out by hand. Ben Loch, CG Supervisor lead his team for an entirely CG Asgard environment.
Upgrading assets built for Thor: The Dark World, the team constructed an entirely CG Asgard environment containing over 9,000 buildings, mostly laid out by hand. ‘Our environment artists pretty much built up Asgard from concept’, says Ben Loch, CG Supervisor. ‘We used our Shambles layout tool, in parallel with our proprietary instancing tool, frInstancer.’ The team sculpted mountains based on references of the Norwegian Lofoten Islands, and refined the most distant panoramas as digital matte paintings.
The Incredible Hulk
Framestore was granted the incredible opportunity to work with the Hulk for the first time. ‘The whole team was incredibly motivated to get to the best possible Hulk’, says Alexis Wajsbrot, VFX Supervisor. The team used its proprietary ‘Flex and Flesh’ muscle and skin sliding tools for the task. ‘The behaviour of the muscles was physically based’, adds Harry Bardak, CG Supervisor. ‘We had a collision system between muscles, then the skin colliding with the muscles which created small wrinkles.’ Built into Framestore’s Hulk rig was a new multi-subsurface system that scattered light through skin, muscle and bones.
Animators brought Hulk to life through keyframe animation. For Hulk’s facial performance, the artists used the blend shapes supplied from past films, enhanced by dynamic simulations. A collaboration with Marvel’s ‘Hulk specialist’, concept artist Ryan Meinerding, helped to inform the subtleties of his facial expressions. ‘We actually redesigned our shot-sculpt pipeline in order to have maximum control and to be able to be very reactive to this feedback’, adds Wajsbrot.
Taika Waititi’s comedic turn as Korg required the team to devise a CG rock-monster, capable of witty dialogue and performance. Made up of thousands of individual rocks, a complex collision and deformation rig that supported a constantly-moving rock mosaic was constructed. ‘We could push the asset to deliver different types of performance, and still get a realistic feel in how the rocks fit together’, says Kyle McCulloch, VFX Supervisor. ‘After the rig did its work, a team of artists went in and really polished how the rocks moved.’ Nowhere was the rig’s articulation more critical than in the face. Smaller stones were arranged around Korg’s eyes and mouth, allowing the character to speak and express subtle emotion.
Hulk vs. Fenris
At 23 feet tall, Fenris, Hela’s giant wolf side-kick, dwarfs even Hulk. The animation team used low camera angles and tight framing to communicate the wolf’s immense size. Groomers covered Fenris with around 12million hairs, which become wet when the two characters crash into the water at the edge of Asgard, in a battle of the giants. ‘Some of our best animators focused on the posing of both Hulk and Fenris to get the strongest positioning, and we put forward a lot of different options to Taika’, says Wajsbrot. ‘We even proposed some new shots – one close-up of Hulk fighting Fenris in the water made the cut!’
Having close-up shots of the rapid water, and giant CG creatures splashing around in it, made it difficult to maintain clarity for audiences to follow the action but still feel like natural water simulation. ‘The first simulations were obscuring our heroes, so it was all about finding the right balance between making the water sim big but still showing the performances’, adds Wajsbrot. ‘We did push the limit of both our internal water solver flush and our rendering engine Arnold to get the best water sim. We completely rethought how we were mixing spray and foam with the meshed water, using some aeration passes to create white water for better integration.’ Underwater shots included drops of the injured Hulk’s blood; a special consultation with Marvel determined that this should be green.
Towards the end of the sequence a super-sized Surtur, the ‘Titan of Fire’, appears to add even more chaos to the epic finale. Heavily augmented with fire and lava effects simulations, Surtur’s prodigious growth spurt elevates him to a height thousands of feet over Asgard. ‘From the start, Taika felt quite strongly that even though Surtur was planet-sized, he shouldn’t appear to move slowly’, explains McCulloch.
The animation team worked on different variations of performances, working to find exactly the right balance of threat, speed, and scale. They looked at sword fighters, wrestlers, and bodybuilders for inspiration on the shapes and poses to use on Surtur, always keeping in mind his new-found strength and power.
‘The brief for Surtur included references to the surface of the sun, plasma, lava, and fire’, adds McCulloch. ‘The LookDev team spent months partnering with our shader writers, experimenting with a myriad of ways to have something feel huge, somewhat transparent and refractive, while still seeing a visual complexity and surface.’ The FX team then built a fire simulation system that could wrap and define Surtur’s body, perform within the space around him, and have the visual scale of detail required to sell how big they were.
As Hela gains the upper hand over Thor, the God of Thunder fights back with newly awakened powers that allow him to shoot bolts of lightning from his body. The team modelled, groomed and shaded a very high-res version of Chris Hemsworth that could work both close-up and far away; also working on a muscle rig specially for the arms, and a Creature FX rig for cape and costume. ‘We body-tracked Chris, even though it was going to be mainly CG, as we wanted to keep his face and facial expressions. Regarding the lighting bolts themselves, we used Tesla coil references for the motion, and a Houdini setup in which we were able to art-direct the density and the speed of the bolts on him’ says Wajsbrot.
The team also created a high-res digi double for Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, who wore a mocap suit; this had to replaced with a digital version of her costume and a CG headdress. ‘Her suit had to have impact, and show her as “otherworldly”’, says McCulloch. ‘We used a lot of reference from the original comics for its look development, and it was a process of discovery with the client to work out how to give the headdress a pose and level of performance that complemented her motivation.’
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by Digital Domain
Digital Domain, led by VFX Supervisor Dave Hodgins, completed more than 175 shots on the film primarily featuring the 4-minute chase sequence.
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by Image Engine
Bringing Thor down to earth
Image Engine’s core sequence takes place while Thor and his duplicitous stepbrother Loki return to Midgard to search for their lost father, Odin. A number of teleportations see them uprooted from Doctor Strange’s mansion and deposited on a Norwegian cliff face, facing out towards a placid sea.
“It was a great sequence to work on – albeit one that we came onto very late in the process,” says Morley. “Our contribution to Thor: Ragnarok was very much 911 work: from award to delivery we had eight weeks to complete around 150 shots.
“Thankfully, we have a lot of past experience in quick turnaround work: our battle-tested pipeline is perfectly prepared for any challenge. We knew going into Thor that even within the time we had we could create a beautiful digital environment – and one that would visually reflect the emotional beats taking place within it.”
A storm’s a-brewin
The sequence was initially shot on-location, with the surrounding landscape obscured by blue screens. Image Engine’s artists ultimately turned the scene into a fully digital environment, creating the meadow, cliff, and skies, the latter of which transitions from clear, sunlit blue to a foreboding blanket of stormy cloud.
“That transition required a great deal of thought, as it needed to gradually build up over time,” says Murray Stevenson, CG supervisor. “To start the process we took a collection of sky plates supplied via Marvel Studios, which they’d captured for various MCU films over the years, and started piecing them together.”
In order to increase efficacy and deliver more creative iterations, Image Engine’s artists worked to automate processes related to the look and feel of the sky: “We used a lot of the rendering technologies we have available for templatizing 3D renders for animation,” explains Stevenson.
“For instance, if we needed to change the sky, we could re-render the sky and horizon projections for all the shots and regenerate them with fairly little artist intervention. Artists could just update one thing and batch run it, and push it into shots to see the results.
“Working in this automated way meant that our compositing team didn’t have to constantly re-run sky shots. They could do that in the background while they continued pulling keys and ensuring everything was super balanced for the final look. That was massively beneficial in hitting the short deadlines on this project.”
The grass is always greener
As the shoot took place over the course of a week, the meadow’s grass became increasingly trampled as time went on. The film’s narrative continuity demanded an untouched, Asgardian-esque meadow.
“We decided early on to replace the in-camera meadow with a digital version, from the immediate camera right out to the horizon,” says Stevenson.
To populate this area, artists created five grass type variants, each of which had a further two or three variants within that. Each chunk was simulated to varying degrees as the emotional intensity of the sequence increased: the individual grass blades needed to move ambiently in the wind during dialogue scenes, but then respond more violently to destruction effects, such as the shockwave caused by the destruction of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.
“If we were to treat the meadow as one giant piece of geometry, it would be entirely inefficient,” says Stevenson. “Instead we dealt with the meadow as instancing system: we had 600,000 individual strands of grass that were all driven from an initial template library of each of the grass variations. They each had a shockwave simulation, ambient wind simulation, stronger wind simulation, and so on.
“We were able to pick and choose which of those simulations were used for any point on the fields. Then at render time we could dynamically adjust those simulations, so if the grass was moving too much in a shot, rather than re-sim it with less wind, we could dynamically dial it down at render time with half the strength. All of this was doable in Gaffer at render time, which saved us a huge amount of iteration cost and time.”
Efficient technology, enhanced creativity
Automated processes such as this are vital at Image Engine, which constantly seeks new ways to improve workflow efficiency. After all, reducing complex processes means empowering artists to get on with what they do best: creating.
“The more you can robotize certain tasks the better – you want people to focus on making things look good, rather than the technical nitty gritty,” says Morley. “What’s more, alongside productivity, you also get a continuity win: when you’re automating, everything is generated from the same template, so you get a more consistent result.
“Time spent on such R&D is key, as it makes 911 work entirely feasible – we can deliver on budget and to deadline without sacrificing anything in the way of quality.”
Making an entrance
Image Engine worked on a number of other shots throughout the cliffside sequence, including the explosion of Mjolnir and the simulated portal through which Hela enters the scene, which artists based on work supplied by Rising Sun Pictures for the effect’s previous sequence incarnation.
“We took the design further in terms of its overall aesthetic, with a big focus on showing the actual opening of the portal, which hadn’t been created previously,” says Morley.
“The first shot shows a close-up of Hela’s feet moving through the portal, so we needed to add interaction between her and the simulation. This was achieved with SideFX Houdini, using animated particles converted into VDBs which give the portal its oily, thick metaball look.”
Image Engine also gave Hela’s big entrance extra grandeur in the form of her barbed, antler-like headdress, which she adopts when entering battle.
As she approaches Thor and Loki, Hela, played by Cate Blanchett, runs her hands back through her hair. As she does so her dark locks transform, the thorned crown animating out from the back of her head.
“This transition required a huge amount of work, beyond the animation of the headdress itself,” says Morley. “For starters, we needed to create a full-CG body to smooth out Hela’s suit, making it look as clean and slick as possible. The compositing team also had to completely remove Cate’s hair, as it was spread all over her front and neck in the plates. That entailed of a lot of paint cleanup, which ultimately aided the smooth transition of the cowl rising and extending from Hela’s head.”
Thor: Ragnarok Showreel Image Engine VFX
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by Trixter
Alessandro cioffi vfx supervisor
The sequence trixter worked on starts with Hela and Skurge entering The Vault, going through all the mighty artifacts kept there. Hela’s goal is though to use the Eternal Flame to revive her army of the dead and her beloved Fenris, down in the Crypt. With this pivotal moment the sequence ends.
Trixter did work on additional mini-sequence involving Loki, in the Vault, bringing back the Surtur to life.
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by Rising Sun Pictures
Rising Sun Pictures (RSP), Australia’s premiere visual effects studio, produced more than 170 final visual effects shots for Thor: Ragnarok¸ the new film from Marvel Studios. Working under the supervision of Director Taika Waititi, production Visual Effects Supervisor Jake Morrison and production Visual Effects Producer Cyndi Ochs, RSP’s team spent more than 18 months helping to craft some of the film’s most memorable, creative and technically challenging scenes.
Highlights of RSP’s contributions include a sequence dubbed “Val’s Flashback” involving a furious battle between the film’s villain, Hela (Cate Blanchett), and an army of Valkyrie. The team also played a key role in “The Palace Battle”, an epic confrontation between Hela and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and in reimagining the Bifröst Bridge, a magical rainbow that links realms of the Norse cosmos. The project is especially noteworthy for the standout work of RSP’s expanded character animation department, who were tasked with creating photo-real horses, Valkyrie and skeleton soldiers, as well as other digital characters.
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by Luma Pictures
Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor
Luma worked on 8 sequences including the end tag of the film. We worked on Korg Meets Thor, Loki Visits Thor, Pre-Fight Staging, Parade of Victors, Revolution Get Gun, Boys Go To Garage and Hulk Vs. Thor. 200 VFX Shots count
Thor: Ragnarok and the VFX behind the film – BBC Click
Thor: Ragnarok VFX Breakdown by ILM
ILM worked on the Hulk vs Thor battle, the Hulk Warrior Suite, and the sequence where Thor Escapes to the Quinjet.The work was split between ILM Vancouver and San Francisco studios.400 shots between both ILM Vancouver and San Francisco.
IMAX Sight & Sound Thor: Ragnarok -Visual Effects