Raising the VFX Hammer for Thor
What distinguishes Thor from all other Marvel superhero movies is that it introduces science-fiction by venturing to the cosmos and bringing the Norse god of Thunder to Earth for his humbling rite of passage. In fact, according to director Kenneth Branagh, they erred on the side of science, and that was the mandate for Wesley Sewell, the overall visual effects supervisor, in executing the 1,309 vfx shots, primarily created by Digital Domain, Buf, Luma Pictures and Whiskytree, but which also included contributions by Fuel and Evil Eye, plus a team of five in-house compositors.
In Norse mythology, there are nine realms that inhabit the entire cosmic tree called Yggdrasil. In Thor, we visit three: Asgard, Midgard (Earth) and Jotunheim. Thor comes from the advanced civilization of Asgard. "We knew we had to show Asgard as a real place, but one that is both futuristic and at the same time ancient," Sewell suggests. "All of our Asgard models and matte paintings were done by Whiskytree, supervised by Jonathan Harb. For the look of Asgard, we went for a blend of classical fine art and comic book history. Think JMW Turner meets Jack Kirby. These elements -- cinema/comic book/classical/sci-fi/futuristic/ancient -- are tough dichotomies to balance and require a lot of imagination to achieve. We also tried to incorporate the idea of using fractal geometry in the organizing, arrangement and design of Asgard. We figured that an advanced civilization who has mastery of the deeper concepts of life's inner workings might utilize fractal geometry. Between the work done by our production designer, Bo Welch, and his crew, and the talents of the Whiskytree artists, these polarized concepts end up coming together in a truly beautiful and fascinating balance throughout the film."
Jotunheim, meanwhile, is a frozen wasteland of a planet: home of the Jotuns, or Frost Giants, who are a violent tribal race of warriors. "Here the color palette is dramatically reduced," Sewell says."The look is an icy ode to the fine art of Caspar David Friedrich with the comic book flair of Patrick Zircher. Every effort was made to have our shots framed as a graphic novelist would but with the moving aesthetic of cinema. This cold snowy environment and all the CG Frost Giants were realized for us at Digital Domain, supervised by Kelly Port, including the formidable Frost Beast. The Frost Giants themselves are a combination of live-action actors and CG characters in the film."