Branagh's VFX Journey with Thor
You wouldn't know that director Kenneth Branagh is a VFX newbie by the way he ticks off vendor after vendor in his comments about Marvel's mighty Thor (opening today in 3-D from Paramount). He certainly does his homework to prepare for interviews, and he's become a fast learner on what CG and 3-D can do for his storytelling. But, in the end, whether it's Shakespeare (Hamlet, Henry V) or Marvel, it's all about a "flawed hero who must earn the right to be king."
Bill Desowitz: What was the biggest VFX learning curve for you?
Kenneth Branagh: Well, it was absorbing the process as we went along, given that, even though we started on day one conceptualizing, it was always going to take a long time. The realization of Asgard, for instance, by Whiskytree, was something that went on until, really, the very, very last moment, like a day or two before I showed the film for the first time. But that big oil tanker of a vfx-heavy movie is tough to move and pipelines and deliveries and, particularly with our additional 3-D side of things, meant that the steepest learning curve -- to answer your question -- was how to keep creative freedom for as long as possible whilst still managing the necessary complex logistics of the pipeline.
BD: Did you storyboard, did you previs?
KB: The second week I sat down with a brilliant storyboard artist named Federico D'Alessandro and we produced storyboards and an animatic for the opening sequence of the movie on Earth. And I have to say, by the end of my first month, that animatic was up and running and that stayed pretty constantly all the way through. And when I presented that to my Marvel colleagues for the first time, I could see that visible relief that it looked like we were on the same page. And then we started our first animatic exercise into the world of the prologue, which is the setup that tries to let the audience know a little bit about the backstory of Asgard, the Frost Giants and other things that will appear in the movie. That was on the page then; then it was in; then it was out; then it was a version with enormous scale and spectacle and too great a length and then it was out again. And then it came back in late in the process and was one of the last things to bake and cook, so the teaser, if you like, was an example of something we got upfront and then the prologue was something we wrestled with for the following two years.