Ms. Marvel is one of Marvel’s most impressive Disney+ productions from a purely visual effects-driven standpoint. There are many staggering visual effects, especially regarding to the character of Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), whose powers are manifested through a “hard light” emanating from her bangles. FOLKS’ visual effects supervisor Mihaela Orzea shares what it was like working on unique VFX designs for Ms.Marvel.
Below you’ll find my complete conversation with Mihaela on FOLKS’ role in the show, alongside the process of designing Kamala’s hard light powers:
Maxance Vincent: What was FOLKS’ overall role in the series? What were you tasked to oversee as Visual Effects Supervisor?
Mihaela Orzea: FOLKS stepped in to help bring the comic book hero Kamala Khan to life. I oversaw the quality of the work and supported our artists in integrating Kamala’s superpowers into her modern environment. It is always a challenge when working on powers for a new Marvel character, and we were super excited about the unique designs for Kamala and Kamran.
What did FOLKS specifically work on when it came to the hard light powers?
We contributed Kamala’s hard-light powers to a few episodes, but we really enjoyed working on episode 4, “Seeing Red.” Kamala visits family in Pakistan and gets attacked by Clandestines, trying to steal her grandmother’s bangle. Kamala gets involved in a fight with multiple characters. Our task was to build her extended arms, legs, fists, feet, and her strong protective shield. She shows imagination and agility in her fights. Kamala would jump in the air, and we would extend her legs, reaching behind the attackers’ back, and we created her signature shield between her and them.
Was there anything challenging that arose while working on Kamala’s hard light? Were there any designs that did not make the final cut of the show, or were her powers different from what we saw?
FOLKS joined a little later in the VFX process. Many of the looks were established. So, our team had to find creative ideas to match those looks. Each studio uses its own proprietary software, and it’s never a straightforward process trying to match a look that would ensure continuity.
Can you talk about creating the CG environment for the mosque scene in episode 2? What was the process like in designing that sequence, and was there anything particularly difficult about doing it?
Kamala and the little boy were both shot as elements in the studio, partially on a blue screen and partially on set-designed pieces. The sequence happens high in the air. In order to save the little boy, Kamala had to reach the minaret tower where the boy was hanging by the window. We shared the CG environment with the other vendors and had to upres all the close-up looks at the Mosque and all the different roofs. Our delivery schedule was tight, and the challenging part was to work in parallel with everybody to achieve a similar look for the different angles in the sequence.
How do you make sure that a purely CG environment is as authentic as possible and looks real for the viewer? Are there any designing methods that make it possible?
If the environment exists and needs to be reproduced in CG, there are a few ways to go about it. We’d start with photogrammetry and location photos. If a Lidar can be available, that would be even better to consider, given how complex the info can be, captured this way. Right proportions and all the highly detailed textures for the close-up angles are essential. Light is paramount and provides definition, volume, depth, and shadows. Finally, we would composite everything together.
One would rarely have a scene ready out of the render. Usually, we would split everything into layers to have as much flexibility as possible and try to match the real environment as closely as possible. We can use atmosphere, defocus, chromatic aberrations, lens flares, color adjustments, and of course, great artist eyes that can create outstanding compositions.
Could you also talk about designing the sequence in which Bruno and Kamran get attacked by Damage Control drones? What was FOLKS tasked to do for this scene?
The sequence is happening in Bruno’s room, shot in the studio. We had to recreate the surrounding environment visible through his three windows. We animated the CG drone for this sequence and designed Kamran’s power that would hit and damage the drone. His power here is very similar to Kamala’s, based on different colors – a golden central core that would grow and expand into a green crystalline structure. First, we would cover his hand; then, we would reach out in a fraction of a second toward the drone. The impact point would expand into a radial structure destabilizing the drone and pushing it away damaged. Parts of it are getting lost, and the malfunctioned drone would end up in the building that gets blown away to bits.
How familiar were you with Ms. Marvel before taking on this project? What is your preparation like? A lot of comic book reading?
I must confess I didn’t know much about Kamala’s character before getting involved in this show. I had to study to understand the world and, yes, do some more research on comic books. But I ended up loving this character; she’s unconventional, rebellious, fun, genuine, and with a great heart interested in making the world a better place.
Do you get time to work directly with the cast at all? If so, what was that experience like? How does it affect/inspire the creative process?
Is there an effect you are most proud of?
I am really proud of the whole team’s work on this series – we joined the party a bit late, and everybody had to move quickly to keep up with the high pace. Nevertheless, we managed to have some beautiful shots. I want to thank and mention part of our team – Oleg, Tricia, Toshiko, Nisarg, Tanya, Zach, Jessica, Ryan, Nadine, Cory, Maria, Sujung… so many names that made us proud!
All episodes of Ms. Marvel are now available to stream on Disney+.