Ms. Marvel is one of the most visual effects-heavy productions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and had multiple VFX studios working on the project. One of the studios, FuseFX, was brought on “towards the end of the series; a lot of it had already been in production for many months,” said VFX Supervisor Kevin Yuille to Awards Radar.
“When we were approached, we had a pretty tight schedule. Just a few months to get our work out,” stating that FuseFX has “a compositing supervisor, a CG Supervisor, and effects supervisor. We all collaborate, taking all of the information from the client to develop the look they’re aiming for.”
In joining the show near its end, FuseFX was tasked to slightly modify Kamala Khan’s (Iman Vellani) hard light powers, which had already been designed by other studios: “We had to modify it slightly because we had to take out different shapes and forms and such. We reworked it with a software called Houdini. It’s a very powerful program for simulating things, creating procedural geometries, etc. So we made this procedural workflow so we could facet anything or come up with any shape and turn it into like a crystal.
Sometimes, when you’re in that early stage of actually coming up with the look, it can be challenging because there are a lot of different people and a lot of different ideas, and you’re bouncing everything back and forth. So that can take a bit of time. The good news for us was that it was established. We knew what the look was, we knew what we had to match to.”
One of the biggest challenges in doing work like this is to match everything else that came before in the show: “The bar has been set, and you gotta match it. Everything has to live in the same universe. But the advantage is that you know what your target is. Knowing that is easier than trying to figure out everything from scratch.”
And in designing one of the biggest visual effects-driven sequences of the show, with Kamala fighting the Clandestines as they are about to open The Veil, Yuille said that the initial look of the portal was not at all what was presented in the episode:
“It was a portal, but the look of the stuff that came out had qualities of fire which is something that Marvel did not want. They didn’t want the audience to identify that “oh, that’s just a very colorful rainbow fire.” They didn’t want fire. So if you don’t want fire, and then it has to have a fluid, its own characteristics, it wants to spread and do its own thing, to tame that was very hard to do. You need it to grow, you need to shoot out really fast in different directions.
So that’s where we had a pivot. And we switched more towards a fabric-ish type of feel, like a leaking fabric coming out of a hole. And that is what they liked. Because it doesn’t look like fire. It has motion, and it flows, and the audience isn’t like, “Oh, that’s fire.” So it took a while to get to that stage.”
They also helped design the skeletons when Fariha (Adaku Ononogbo) dies while touching The Veil: “From a storytelling perspective, Marvel wanted to make sure that it was very obvious that they die. They didn’t want any questions, they had to be literally, permanently killed. So they didn’t want to look like they’re being pulled back to their world or transcending.”
FuseFX was also tasked with designing scenes in digital matte paintings environments, which Yuille describes as “the more traditional VFX work,” with “blue screens that they shoot on a soundstage, and all the windows have to be replaced,” for Kamala and Bruno’s (Matt Lintz) rooms:
“You have to be selling the fact that it’s daytime out there, but yet not blowing it out so much that you can’t see any of the details outside. You want to see what’s out there without it having to look fake. So you have to make sure that all the matte paintings outside honor the same lighting direction, or if it’s behind the sun, like the buildings in the shadow. so you take cues from what’s being filmed.”
Digital matte painting work was also used during the scene where Kamala flies to Karachi, Pakistan, in the fourth episode, where a digital camera was used:
“Basically, you want a camera in CG that matches the camera that was actually used in the plane. So we had to then take over the camera. You then have a CG camera that’s matching a plate, you create a new camera that takes over and can fly through the window. So that’s what we did but in reverse. We pull out of the window to reveal the inner cabin, and then there’s a bunch of conversations back and forth and a lot of blue screens again, with subtle clouds. And then it’s back through another window. So it’s the same idea as the first shot; you just do the opposite, you just take over the camera, and you reveal matte painting and some clouds in the sky.”
All episodes of Ms. Marvel are now available to stream on Disney+.
[Quotes have been edited for length and clarity]