The Third Floor is proud to have been among the collaborators for Marvel’s masterful production of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Creating previs, techvis and postvis with the filmmakers, The Third Floor’s LA studio supported development of iconic scenes such as the opening montage of Wenwu’s rise to power, the bamboo forest chase, the bus fight, the intro to the beautiful Spring Temple and the climactic final battle. TTF artists worked closely with Director Dustin Daniel Cretton, VFX Supervisor Chris Townsend, Second Unit VFX Supervisor Joe Farrell and others on the film team.
(Visualization in previs of the Soul-Eaters being unleashed on Ta Lo. Image © 2021 MARVEL)
The pre-production phase included look development for multiple scenes to visualize and represent filmmaker vision for the movie’s overall artistic style. “The rings are new to the MCU and there were a lot of early animation and conceptual tests,” said Shannon Justison, Visualization Supervisor. “We explored a wide range of concepts for ring behavior, with the idea that each character who interacts with them has their own definitive style and color.”
A major showcase of these powers is seen in the Shang-Chi vs. Wenwu fight, worked on in concert with the stunt team. Action figures were used to pitch the fight, with previs artists then adapting the blocking into previs animation and adding visualization of the ring powers. After the action was filmed, shots were postvisualized for additional refinement of the ring powers based on the actors’ movements.
(Postvis shot of the Shang-Chi vs. Wenwu “5 on 5” ring fight. Image © 2021 MARVEL)
Many incredible creatures were visualized to meet the vision for the film’s mythical landscape of Ta Lo. This included the realm’s defender, a dragon known as The Great Protector. “The Great Protector doesn’t have wings, so the conceit was that she had to be perpetually moving in order to stay aloft. When blocking her within previs and postvis shots, we needed to have an intricate dance of camera and dragon animation to keep her action clear,” Justison noted.
The scale of the Great Protector, as well as the ravenous Dweller-in-Darkness, was vast compared to the human characters in these final battle scenes. “Tracking the two tiny humans of Shang-Chi and his sister, Xialing, in the middle of a giant dragon fight was a challenge, but working in real scales via previs helped provide an idea as to what would visually work and the types of camera framing that would support the storytelling.”
Another challenge in visualization was helping define fan favorite Morris, a faceless furry six-legged being. “We did early animation tests to establish his character in the ‘vis, and really leaned into his roly-poly shape to make him endearing,” said Justison. “These became our touchstones for visualizing him whenever he was on screen.”
(Xialing andThe Great Protector as visualized in previs. Image © 2021 MARVEL)
Multiple scenes received a techvis pass, allowing production teams to collectively analyze their real-world filming plans. The Bus Fight was carefully mapped to San Francisco streets with the correct grade, requisite turns, and dead-ends necessary to motivate the action and story.