*Warning: the following interview contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever*
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the year’s best films. One of its most impressive elements is its visual effects, which feel much more elaborate than in the first film, through the world of Talokan and Riri Williams’ debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Crafting these visual effects seems like a daunting task, but one of the most important roles of the process is editing visual effect shots, as described by Visual Effects Editor Anedra Edwards:
“We are responsible for cutting in the visual effects shots that go into the film, as well as temp compositing, where we do compositing of the shots while the film is in the editing process. So we’re continuously filling in the gaps to ensure we’re aware of what the movie can look like. We also send original play photography to the visual effects houses we use. They were all amazing and awesome to work with. There’s also a lot of communication with how the scenes are changing. We are responsible for updating that continuous pipeline. So it’s a big machine, of course, visual effects and visual effects editors.
I was also involved during the filming process. I went to Atlanta for about five months while filming down there and, of course, a couple of other locations. But my office was in Atlanta during that time. I returned to Los Angeles for our post-production schedule outside filming photography. A lot of tasks go on daily, from keeping track of the visual effects shots and continuity and even editing some of the beats to help our picture editors, Michael P. Shawver, Kelley Dixon, and Jennifer Lame.”
On working with the film editors, Edwards found Shawver’s advice helpful, as he worked on the first Black Panther with Debbie Berman:
“It was great to have that insight into how he did things. We have a four-person team of visual effects editors on the production side. Two of us were in Atlanta. For me to be in Atlanta with my lead Visual Effects Editor, Kevin Jolly, was cool to have that experience because they both worked on the first film together. He was awesome in terms of cutting, especially some of our action scenes you already knew he had a personal relationship with Ryan Coogler. That gave me confidence when I talked with Ryan and got a sense of what he liked and wanted to see. Sometimes Ryan would pop into my room to look at scenes and to go through different selections and how we would communicate to our visual effects artists what he wanted, and making sure that got put into those scenes.”
Edwards praised Ryan Coogler’s vision of the movie, stating that he was “really involved, and it’s great to have a director who likes to be that involved and to see a lot of the themes through because there’s a lot of emotion in this film.
This is the first time you are returning to Wakanda since different events from Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War, where you last saw Wakanda. Fans are really amped to see Wakanda again. There were newer additions, like different parts of the golden city that you hadn’t seen before, and where they were some of the funeral portions of the film. With these different parts, we had to figure out how to make something new from a visual effects standpoint. It was fun to see Ryan come in and have his input the entire way. He’s involved with all our views, he approves those shots to ensure that what’s going into the movie is something that he’s seen and that he’s greenlit. He trusts everyone to do their job, which is great. We have a director who trusts our abilities and intuitions, and that’s always a good thing.”
On working with multiple VFX houses in the movie, Edwards mentioned how collaborative the process was and used WETA as an example during the film’s underwater scenes:
“I’ll give an example for the underwater scenes, we worked a lot with WETA, based in New Zealand. They did many of our underwater scenes and created and helped build Talokan the way you see it in the film. I initially started talking with them when I was in Atlanta on Zoom. It was great that I could sit in the room with them while they were going through our visual effects.
There is a lot of collaboration, especially at the production level, with working with visual effects houses. They are sending over a lot of animation and pre-visualization before we start filming some of those scenes. I was responsible for that, as well, because they would send some animation to us early. We also worked with a vendor called Digital Domain, who did our pre-vis, which covered all of the movie. Pre-visualization looks like an animation. During production, though those scenes get cut together with just animation and then sent to our camera departments, these different production departments that are going to film will decide what pieces they’re going to get and how they may even achieve filming certain parts.”
Editing the underwater visual effects shots had many challenges regarding how they would fit into the story:
“We had some challenges at times of where it would fit in the story. I use the example of an accordion in terms of how the edit can go. It can be fat, then it goes down, back up again, and then shrinks. That’s a lot of post-production, this collapsing and expanding of the film, and how long certain things are and how short they can be. Being underwater, you know, there is the general challenge of filming underwater or wet for wet. In my opinion, what was cool was having Ryan’s throughline for a lot of the work. We want to make Talokan feel real like if you went to the ocean’s depths, this is what you could see. There are also challenges of what it could look like in our visual effects producers. Ryan worked through that and made sure that it got communicated to the visual effects editors. That makes for a great collaborative process.”
On cutting visual effects-heavy scenes, and practical shots with VFX added to them, Edwards described that it’s part of the same pipeline but has some nuance throughout:
“Some of the visual effects-heavy scenes might be completely CG. For a lot of that, we might have an animation provided by the visual effects house that is in the cut the entire time, and it might be different iterations of that shot. The whole movie is touched by visual effects in a way, but we have what’s called the invisible effects. It might be small visual effects, or essentially not the fantasy level or high 3D that you’re used to seeing in some other shots. It could be an example of where you’re painting out stunt wires, and there may not be anything else involved in the shot. You may have a blue screen replacement, an actor who might be in front of a blue screen, and we’re replacing the environment around it. We had visual effects in some of our memorial scenes with Chadwick Boseman.
There are small visual effects to make the shots have a memorial look. Sometimes it’s hard to make it match the lens of the shots either preceding it or after it. We have a lot of anamorphic shots, and we have shots that were not anamorphic that we made anamorphic. So you have a lot of that for visual effects as well. That is a mixture at times, and we’re keeping track of that, as well as the visual effects of shots that are completely CG.”
For Edwards, the sequence she was the proudest of working on was Riri Williams’ introduction to the MCU:
“The scene is actually a lot longer. It’s a little shorter now that we have it in the film. The scene worked a lot with aerial shots with our second unit VFX supervisor. He was awesome to work with and worked a lot with the racing drones, keeping Riri’s continuity in the sky because she’s flying around between Cambridge and Boston. I was in Atlanta at the time while they did that filming in Boston, so I depended on the communication of what was going on there. I did a lot of pre-production for those scenes. Oftentimes, I tell people that some of my edits look like a picture-in-picture because it will sometimes be practical photography and the animation in a smaller box, so we know which shots match what was filmed. I would do a lot of that and have information on what equipment we might be using or whatnot, and collaboration with our stunt team and camera department. You see Riri in her suit, which evokes nostalgic feelings about Iron Man’s first suit. You’re experiencing that as a fan for the first time, which excited me.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now playing in theatres everywhere.
[Some quotes were edited for length and clarity]