VFX Supervisor Vincent Cirelli and the Luma team in close collaboration with VFX supervisor Brendan Seals and Marvel’s Stephane Ceretti worked to achieve the artistic complexity of the show. Luma worked on the opening London sequence where the Ancient One fights and chases the Zealots through an alleyway into an astonishing array of kaleidoscoping architecture.
Luma was responsible for the entire sequence— they created 14 digi doubles and art directed the action of the buildings and the action within the characters. The majority of this sequence was replaced in CG and very little plate photography was used, except in the beginning when the world begins to open.
Luma developed the look of the fractals, which involved a lot of experimentation in-house and explored a range of different aesthetics with Marvel.
The fractals required a significant amount of work by Chad Dombrova and the development team along with Jared Simeth, associateVFX Supervisor. The team discovered early on that there is an infinite amount of detail in fractal design; so, VFX Supervisor Brendan Seals and CG Supervisor Andrew Zink worked together to put in necessary constraints.
After establishing the look of the fractals, animators, led by animation supervisor Raphael A. Pimentel, faced the challenge of ensuring that the volumes of the fractals and the sections of London obeyed each other. They had to consider new technology in their rigging and implement it even while it was still being developed. It was critical for the team to have control of the London building rigs and fractal rigs, but at the time, the fractals weren’t previewable in Maya.
Luma’s dev team stepped in to create a fractal preview that was beneficial to both the lighting and animation teams: with this new tool, lighters could see the angles and how the light might react in certain ways.
In both the London and Cathedral sequences, Luma used the Mandelbrotting technique which required the dev team to develop a new set of tools that allowed artists to duplicate the fractals thousands of times over. Fractals are procedural and difficult to art direct, but the new tools gave Luma the control to manipulate and visualize the ever-demanding effects of the show. Luma added another layer of true 3D fractals on top of this and took the following three tier approach: base level animation with rotating large elements, kaleidoscoping arrays of geometry, and the actual 3D fractal. This approach resulted in a choreographed motion that felt organic versus procedural.
Scott Derrickson wanted to keep the look of the Dark Dimension as close to the comic books as possible, so Luma took inspiration directly from Steve Ditko’s 1971 “Third Eye” blacklight poster.
The difficulty came in translating the trippy, rule breaking 2D art graphic into a photoreal 3D world.
This sequence was heavily art-directed and proved to be more complicated than anything Luma had ever done. To achieve the blacklight look, the team began exploring natural occurring flora, insects, rocks and anything that had a vibrant colour when viewed in this context. Luma created an extensive library of new elements that allowed flexibility and a vast array of colour and value variation at the shot level. Everything in this sequence—aside from Benedict Cumberbatch—was done entirely in 3D, including the 30 unique planets.
“It was one of the most complex sequences we have worked on at Luma, but with the collaborative efforts of our whole crew, we were able to make it work and have fun doing it said Vincent Cirelli (VFX Supervisor).
Dormammu was a complex character to create: he is transparent, reflective, and is constantly changing shape and dimension. He was made from a tonne of simulations driven by performance capture and hand keyed animation. Luma began with base layer animation and followed with liquefying Dormammu through a complex rigging technique.
Animation Supervisor Raphael A. Pimentel led the riggers to create a way for the underlying surface to move like real skin, so that it was all properly grounded. The process was then followed with a tonne of FX layering to achieve Dormammu’s ever evolving nature.
Doctor Strange has achieved major box office success and acclaim, and Luma’s Vincent Cirelli received an Oscar® nomination and two VES nominations.