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July 07
2017

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

BEHIND THE VFX OF WONDER WOMAN’S SECRET ISLAND HOME

By IAN FAILES

In Wonder Woman, the newest installment in the DC Extended Universe film franchise, director Patty Jenkins relied on a significant but seamless visual effects effort to help realize Diana Prince’s (Gal Gadot) hidden island home of Themyscira.

Double Negative produced digital environments and other effects to depict the island, while MPC worked on a beach battle as German soldiers stumble upon the location while pursuing U.S. Army spy, Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who has crash-landed there.

“It was much less about the digital effects and more about, ‘How does this support the story?’ It was nice to be a supporting actor and really be part of the background, even in a superhero movie, than making it the reason for the audience to come see the film.”

―Bill Westenhofer, Visual Effects Supervisor

MIXING REAL AND DIGITAL

Looking to ground scenes in reality, Jenkins pushed for the production to film at as many real locations and on constructed sets as possible. That drove shooting for Themyscira to be done on the Amalfi Coast in Italy and in the Italian city of Matera, a place that Bill Westenhofer, overall Visual Effects Supervisor, describes as having a ‘real dawn of civilization’ feel to it.

The island of Themyscira was modeled on real locations but involved 3D and 2 1/2-D visual effects work.

“Filming at these locations,” says Westenhofer, “gave us a basis that we could then augment. We added some Asia photography and an almost Mediterranean or Hawaiian feel to it. We wanted it to leap out of the ocean and feel lush. Patty wanted the sense that the Amazons lived with the environment.”

Double Negative took charge of taking the real photography, plus a series of aerial plates, to construct CG mountainscapes and town areas. The environments then served as a backdrop to life on the island, including several training sequences where Diana is being taught the art of fighting.

One of Diana’s training sessions in Themyscira.

ON THE BEACH

That fighting comes in handy almost immediately after Diana has rescued Steve when a group of German soldiers invade a Themysciran beach. The Amazon women quickly respond, some on horseback, and a battle ensues. A real Italian beach location was chosen for its suitability for filming, and then the dramatic white cliffs of the Amalfi Coast added in later by MPC, which handled visual effects for the sequence.

“Filming at these locations (in Italy) gave us a basis that we could then augment. We added some Asia photography and an almost Mediterranean or Hawaiian feel to it. We wanted it to leap out of the ocean and feel lush. (Director) Patty (Jenkins) wanted the sense that the Amazons lived with the environment.”

―Bill Westenhofer, Visual Effects Supervisor

“Shooting on an actual beach had its challenges. We put up greenscreens where we could,” says Westenhofer, “but there was a ton of roto. And then on the beach we had many extras and the horses, but we also shot 2D elements of people fighting to augment them into the background.”

Most of the foreground fighting was real, but MPC did carry out some effects enhancements such as arrows, bullets and weapons, as well as additional compositing of front and center action. “We had some people flipping off horses and some jumping into the air,” notes Westenhofer. “That was shot on a soundstage with a Robomoco driving for a horse, and then the beach, the sand and the soldiers were added digitally after that.”

TOP: Director Patty Jenkins (left) and actress Gal Gadot as Diana Prince on the Italian beach location for shooting the battle. BOTTOM: Diana’s aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), during the beach battle. 

Ultimately, these Themysciran sequences were intended to introduce audiences into the world of Wonder Woman, a world that Jenkins and Westenhofer wanted to make sure felt grounded in terms of visual effects.

“It was much less about the digital effects and more about, ‘How does this support the story?’” says Westenhofer. “It was nice to be a supporting actor and really be part of the background, even in a superhero movie, than making it the reason for the audience to come see the film.”



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