Last July, Kevin Souls explained to us about the work of Luma Pictures on SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING.
Raphael A. Pimentel has been working for nearly 14 years at Luma Pictures. He has participated in films such as HANCOCK, X: FIRST CLASS, THE AVENGERS and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
How was the collaboration with director Taika Waititi and VFX Supervisor Jake Morrison?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: One of the best parts of THOR: RAGNAROK was our collaboration with Taika and Jake for the character of Korg. Taika himself portrayed the character during filming, in a motion capture suit, and voiced him during post production. The film production had a very improvisational style, and we were able to help evolve many of the sequences not only stylistically, but also comedically through dialogue and animation.
What was their approaches and expectations about the visual effects?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: The focus was solely on character and story. Those two parameters would drive all of our creative and technical choices. Ultimately, it all had to look photoreal and we had to believe the performance and the emotions.
What are the sequences made at Luma?
// 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.
Can you explain in details about the design and the creation of Korg?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: We received an initial model from Framestore and then collaborated with them to refine the facial structure, rock detail and costume design. Korg needed to look intimidating and heavy, but also able to speak complex dialogue and gesture comedically, so it was a balance of detail and rigging.
Can you tell us more about his rigging and animation?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: Korg was made up of 1,334 individual pieces of rock. We started with a body mesh that contained muscle helpers to keep volume, which allowed for bulging and contracting depending on his motion.
For the animation, we received Taika’s onset captured data as reference. Taika had a very relaxed demeanour for Korg, which was the essence of what we needed to convey. So our focus from the beginning was to make Korg heavy and sturdy, while maintaining Taika’s “easy going” performance.
How did you handle his facial animation?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: We began the facial animation process by studying Taika Waititi’s onset footage. The first animation passes were mirrored versions of Taika’s facial performance. From that point forward, we worked on refining the pacing, making sure that the phonemes transitions felt weightier.
How did you simulate his presence on-set and for the interactions?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: Taika wore a motion capture suit onset so the timing and interaction with Chris Hemsworth would feel real. He also wore a poster of Korg’s face above his head to line up the eyelines.
Can you tell us more about his “stone” skin?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: Korg is a Kronan, the same race as the rock creature from THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Apart from the rigging, and maintaining the rock stiffness, we were very conscious of the texture and feel of the rock. They had to have a mixture of rough, smooth, dusty and wet. And obviously, each rock had to look different, so we used a combination of painted texture maps and procedural detail to complete the look.
Korg has two friends, Miek and Biff. Can you explain in details about their design and creation?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: Miek was a shared asset with Framestore, but we built our own custom shaders. Biff was a ground up build. Based off previs and concept art, our character supervisor Mathieu Aerni made a very high resolution sculpt. We used reference of rhinoceros for the skin and then added peach fuzz. The cloth needed to completely roll and slide off his body, our rigging supervisors Thana Siripopungul and Marcos Romero created a special rig and cloth setup to simulate the heavy leather and thick burlap.
Can you tell us more about their animation?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: Jake Morrison was clear on what Marvel was looking for in terms of Miek’s animation. His movements are driven by joy sticks in his hands, which control his exoskeleton. Also, Miek loves practicing Wushu, a form of martial arts. For Miek’s Wushu, we captured lots of hi energy punching, kicking, jumping and flipping at Luma’s mocap room. That way the animators had a very specific type of motion they could use as reference. It was great to be able to shoot the motion capture in-house actually, that way we didn’t need to rely on a third party mocap processing schedule, which expedited the process and allowed us to spend more time animating. We took a similar approach for Biff, the motion capture reference was performed by myself in our in-house mocap studio.
Did you received specific indications and references for Korg animation and his two friends?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: Yes, there are always direction and references, however the character process is exploratory. With Marvel’s guidance, Luma answered questions related to achieving Miek’s wushu moves, Korg’s proper weight and how to infuse Taika’s personality and mannerisms into the character.
Can you explain in details about your work on the various environments?
We were asked to augment and extend the original sets. In some cases, it meant simply adding detail, but other areas required building a virtual version of the set, matching the detail and scale, and finally changing the materials and lighting. Additionally, we were tasked with designing and executing the Hanger in the grand master’s castle. We took that all they way from concept to final execution.
What is your favorite shot or sequence?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: All sequences have their own “umph” but if I had to choose one sequence, it would be “KMT”, when Korg meets Thor in the Sakaaran prison.
What was the main challenge on this show and how did you achieve it?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: The biggest challenge in animation was infusing back into Korg what was extracted from Taika’s performance. Every acting beat was carefully injected in order to balance Taika’s soft-hearted performance with Korg’s rock-hard stature. The result is a hefty and charming character unique to the Marvel-verse.
What is your best memory on this show?
// Raphael A. Pimentel – Animation Supervisor: We had a lot of fun. The crew had fun working on it. It was a different type of film and we knew people were going to enjoy it as much as we did.
How long have you worked on this show?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: Roughly 6 months.
What’s the VFX shots count?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: Nearly 200.
What was the size of your team?
// Kevin Souls – VFX Supervisor: About 150 including artists, support and operational staff.
A big thanks for your time.
// WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Luma Pictures: Dedicated page about THOR: RAGNAROK on Luma Pictures website.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2017