Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion (Disney +) is a crossover storyline that involves the infiltration of Earth by shape-shifting aliens called Skrulls. Working with the show makers, The Third Floor (TTF) provided visualization services across the mini-series.
ABOVE: Postvisualization to depict shape-shifting Skrulls within the filmed plate. ©MARVEL. BELOW: Final imagery by the VFX team. ©MARVEL
The London-based visualization crew collaborated closely with VFX Supervisors Aharon Bourland, John Moffatt and Troy Moore, VFX Producer Georgina Street and multiple departments to create previs, techvis and postvis used to plan film shoots and VFX scenes. The previs phase provided a means for creatives to block storytelling while exploring staging of action with complex scenes and many characters.
An example of a large scene where crowds and effects all needed to be choreographed for filming is the bomb sequence in Episode 1. “In this scene, bombs are detonating and chases and chaos commence involving Skrulls shape-shifting into different characters,” said Visualization Supervisor Jaime Visedo, The Third Floor. “The scene needed to convey confusion but keep the storytelling and characters easy to follow. A first previs pass was done using stills, which allowed us to quickly visualize the storytelling they were envisioning, and be able to easily do many iterations. Then, we visualized the crowds using different techniques, such as particle systems and cached geometry, to give the creatives full control of the choreography and allow us to quickly address their previs notes.”
Previsualisation from Episode 1, visualizing action and crowds within a digital representation of the location. ©MARVEL
In a postvis phase, the show team could continue evolving the scene after filming, helping inform how crowd elements would place in final shots. “Various crowd elements were filmed at Piece Hall in Halifax, using a fixed number of background performers” recalled TTF Visualization Supervisor Martin Chamney. “The actors performed the same moments in time in several different areas of the courtyard for each camera setup. The actors were separated from their backgrounds using difference keying and tracked into position. These elements were then layered up and composited over the clean background plate filling out the field of view for each shot.”
Production plate. ©MARVEL
Crowds and CG top-ups to the practical architecture were visualized in postvis. ©MARVEL
The Third Floor worked closely with Second Unit Stunt Director Rob Inch as action scenes – including a dramatic sequence in Episode 4 as President Ritson’s motorcade is ambushed, were visualized.
“In this scene, armed helicopters fire missiles at the motocade and the attack begins from the air and the ground,” Chamney explained. “It was critical to be able to map out the stunts and arrangement of the vehicles, including the stunt of a decoy vehicle getting blown up, how it would be detonated and exactly how it would spin and tumble. Collaborating with stunts, we planned and visualized the action in previs prior to filming on location. As Nick Fury and Talos arrive at the scene, the ensuing firefight and series of shape-shifting effects brought plenty of staging and screen direction challenges that the ‘vis process helped illuminate.”
Blocking in previs from Episode 4, as the President’s motorcade is attacked. ©MARVEL
Final shot by the VFX team. ©MARVEL
The Super-Skrull Fight in Episode 6 also contained a climactic fight sequence. Visedo recalls: “We worked on many iterations of the fight in previs, giving the director and studio executives an efficient way to quickly visualize and expand upon their ideas, including the aerial fight beats. Once the footage was shot, we provided postvis for the sequence, working in tandem with VFX Supervisor Aharon Bourland through many aspects of the shapeshifting and helping define the specific powers of the characters in relation to the photographed plates. This process also helped define CG environments and background extensions by pre-visualizing how visual effects and plate elements would come together.”
Postvis of Nick Fury at the New Skrullos facility. ©MARVEL
Visedo continues: “Some of the biggest challenges involved representing characters shape-shifting into other characters, extending and replacing backgrounds with digital environments and adding specific powers like the Groot arm.”
ABOVE: Production plate. ©MARVEL. BELOW: Super-Skrull powers visualized in postvis ©MARVEL
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