Computer Graphics World

November / December 2017

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n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 7 c g w 2 9 expert on Thor (laughs). That was never part of the plan, but it comes in handy." Shooting for Thor: Ragnarok began in July 2016, aer months of planning, with filming mostly on Australia's Gold Coast using Arri Alexa 65 cameras. The production was headquartered at Village Roadshow Studios in Queensland. Prior to the release of the film, Morrison explained that even with all of the sets and location shoots, "I think that every frame of the film will, at some point or in some small way, go through the VFX department." With approximately 2,700 VFX shots, it looks like Morrison had predicted cor- rectly. The film is about 97 or 98 percent VFX, he notes. A Cosmic Road Trip There's "not a rock unturned here," Morrison says. "There are huge set pieces with fully- animated characters, all the way down to motion-captured characters delivering lines. We visit multiple worlds, interstellar travel, spaceships, huge-scale destruction. I think at the moment, it's clocking in as Marvel's biggest picture yet in terms of just shot count. I think we're past Age of Ultron. It's a huge, behemoth of a picture, and it's ba- sically like a cosmic road trip, which means you never really go back to the same place more than once or twice. You just keep mov- ing forward. It's a dream job for us because we get to turn the creative tap on and just let all the juices flow." Morrison did point out that his one mandate from Waititi was, "Don't let all this technical crap get in the way of the fact that I like to shoot actors' performances, long takes, and series, and throw lines out and ad lib stuff and get the actors to improv." Morri- son elaborates: "Really, the only thing he said to us was make it transparent and just make it so he never thinks about it." To pull off the VFX, the longtime Marvel veteran brought quite the impressive team of studios along for the adventure, with more than 18 houses contributing their talents, including Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore, Method, Rising Sun Pictures, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Legend3D, and Iloura. "We went to ILM to leverage all of the Hulk work, of course. It would have been nuts not to. And then for our final battles, I went to Framestore in London. It's a really strong character house. Our third act is absolutely jam packed with character animation," says Morrison. "Rising Sun did some early work for us on Hela, Cate Blanchett's character. Method in Vancouver has been standout – the studio has done some really stunning work, everything with Cate. We wanted to maintain as much of Cate's performance as possible, even though her suit is digital. And through much of the fight sequences, she oen turns into a digital character, so Meth- od did some incredible work there." Digital Domain, meanwhile, did a whole section of Aragorn planet Sakaar for what is effectively a spaceship chase. Luma Pictures helped develop Korg in the scene where Thor meets Korg. "They really found the character for us and helped us find that performance," says Morrison. Iloura contrib- uted quite a lot, he adds, especially for many of the Jeff Goldblum sequences: "They did standout [digital matte paintings], literally stuff that was 100 percent visual effects." The Third Floor completed the pre- vis work on the film, led by the studio's Shannon Justison as visualization super- visor. "Because it's a Thor film, you can do anything," says Morrison. "You basically have final battles where you have two gods battling against each other. It means you don't limit yourself to physics or sensibilities, so Shannon has really helped us. She has a cinematic eye, and when you're looking at fully-digital sequences, you're looking at story boards. But that only goes so far, and then you go into visualization. What [Third Floor] did on the film is absolutely killer." Korg Director Waititi, who is well known for casting himself in his own movies, has appeared in all four previous New Zea- land-based feature films that he wrote and directed. "When we were writing the story, I asked myself, 'Who do I want to play?' " Waititi says. "I like playing characters who sort of provide a little texture and make it a bit more interesting to watch. I had never played a guy who was made of rocks." "He's a character that grew organically during the filming," says Morrison. "The Korg character started appearing in more and more storyboards. I knew Taika likes to do cameos, I knew he was going to be something in the movie, but I wasn't quite sure what it was. And it became clear that he was interested in the whole motion- capture thing." As the script continued to evolve, Korg's part got bigger and bigger. Eventually the project found the director in full motion- capture gear with the head-mounted cameras, dots, and the rest of [the mocap tech], calling 'Cut,' and giving direction to the lighters, grips, and actors, and then liter- ally jumping back into the scene. "I think it's a first," Morrison says. "If you think finalizing the shots in which the director is an actor in the movie is a challenge, try and finish shots where the director is actually a visual effect in the movie!" Another first for Morrison was how they did the motion capture for the Korg scenes. "Typically, when they do motion capture, they do it in a volume; they'll take a corner of a stage with this gray floor with gray and black walls, they'll build around 15 or 30 different cameras that are all pointing back in a central area, and those actors perform in there," he explains. "We thought that with this one, we would work with the art

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