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August 04
2017

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

LUMA AMPS UP THE ATM ACTION IN SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

By IAN FAILES

In Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is desperate to prove his worth as a superhero. Which is why he takes on a bunch of criminals – badly dressed as members of the Avengers – while they’re stealing an ATM.

The action sequence, in which the robbers use an anti-gravity gun on Parker and a laser weapon that goes a little haywire, saw Luma Pictures contribute a wealth of visual effects – from a fully digital Spider-Man to gun effects and even digital cash. VFX Voice asked Visual Effects Supervisor Brendan Seals about the work.

“A lot of shots involved split-screens, re-times, re-poses – just to really enhance and take the sequence up to another level. In fact, editorial in their previews had put together a first pass of suggestions. ‘Could we move this thief further screen right, which would allow us to put Spider-Man in here?’ ‘Could he do an extra punch?’ – things like that. It really meant augmenting a lot of what was captured in camera.”

— Brendan Seals, Visual Effects Supervisor, Luma Pictures

CG SPIDER-MAN

Production filmed the stunt-filled scene with a mix of wire gags, stunt performers and Tom Holland. Since Spider-Man had to hit several key poses, and even levitate at one point, Luma would replace the live-action character at several moments with a CG asset (which was shared via production among several vendors on the film).

Says Seals: “What started out as using predominantly plate photography, just through elaboration of the story, became replacing Spider-Man. Because you needed the pose at the beginning to connect with the pose at the end of the previous, and the pose at the end to connect to the next pose. So more and more, we found ourselves replacing Spider-Man fully but obviously honoring and paying respect to the lighting and the essence of what they captured.”

An additional character-related effect Luma contributed was ‘de-wrinkling’ the Spider-Man costume, which is skin-tight on Parker. “When you’ve got surfaces that are really curved and really clean, it’s really hard to sell that realism,” says Seals. “So throughout the production we started to inch in, on certain areas, a little bit of wrinkling where it was needed, just to break up the lighting details and the texturing of the surfaces.”

“I think we had 200 bills in any given shot and something like $16,000 in the sequence that was spilled out through the ATM bank. That was a really fun task to work on. It was all $20 bills! … Once we had started developing and testing the look of the money and we added it to shots, Marvel liked it so much that they wanted us to put more in.”

— Brendan Seals, Visual Effects Supervisor, Luma Pictures

DIGITAL FIREPOWER

Luma’s effects extended also to the guns used by the thieves (which rely on re-purposed alien and Avengers technology). A practical prop gun was used on set, but was re-designed and replaced mostly in CG by the visual effects studio to reflect more of the similar tech being made by Vulture (Michael Keaton). The energy effects from the weapons were also handled by Luma.

The gravity gun: Luma relied on internal concept art to re-imagine the on-set prop, and added simulated effects.

“The important thing was color spectrum,” describes Seals of the gun effects. “Obviously, there’s a lot of colors in the Marvel universe that have different meanings, different effects. Blue and orange were the primary tones for us to use. We looked towards Aurora Borealis and the Northern Lights as inspiration. We achieved that in Houdini. We used particles to flow from the gun to the target, and then we emitted volumetrics around those particles, and had a really nice work flow between effects and compositing to really art direct the intensity and the balance between blue and orange in comp.”

“What started out as using predominantly plate photography, just through elaboration of the story, became replacing Spider-Man.”

— Brendan Seals, Visual Effects Supervisor, Luma Pictures

CASH FLOW

At one point, the flurry of activity near the ATM causes a waft of cash to bellow out. “I think we had 200 bills in any given shot, and something like $16,000 in the sequence that was spilled out through the ATM bank,” states Seals. “That was a really fun task to work on. It was all $20 bills!”

Luma Pictures simulated the cash that gets thrown up inside the ATM room.

“It wasn’t something that initially was a big part of the sequence,” adds Seals. “Once we had started developing and testing the look of the money and we added it to shots, Marvel liked it so much that they wanted us to put more in.”

“The important thing (in the gun effects) was color spectrum. … Blue and orange were the primary tones for us to use. We looked towards Aurora Borealis and the Northern Lights as inspiration. We achieved that in Houdini. We used particles to flow from the gun to the target, and then we emitted volumetrics around those particles, and had a really nice work flow between effects and compositing to really art direct the intensity and the balance between blue and orange in comp.”

— Brendan Seals, Visual Effects Supervisor, Luma Pictures

AMPLIFYING THE ACTION

Although there were some significant and complex visual effects that Luma had to provide for the ATM sequence, a major part of their role was aiding in making it as engaging an experience for the audience as possible. Much of the action was filmed for real – then, during editing, enhancements became an important addition.

The ATM area explodes.

“A lot of shots involved split-screens, re-times, re-poses – just to really enhance and take the sequence up to another level,” says Seals. “In fact, editorial in their previews had put together a first pass of suggestions. ‘Could we move this thief further screen right, which would allow us to put Spider-Man in here?’ ‘Could he do an extra punch?’ – things like that. It really meant augmenting a lot of what was captured in camera.”

Luma’s final work on the sequence included augmenting a practical effect of the laser blast causing havoc and destruction on the surrounding street area, so much so that it injures a nearby shopkeeper – Mr. Delmar. Interestingly, the destruction was something Luma was requested to tone down slightly after an initial iteration seen in an early trailer.

“In an early version of the shot, we added a massive shockwave that rips through the block,” says Seals. It was just so huge, with so much debris and destruction, that Marvel’s comment was that they thought Delmar would be dead. And so after we changed it we had this saying at Luma – ‘Delmar lives’. We even wanted to make a t-shirt.”



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