In the multidimensional world of Marvel's latest blockbuster, Doctor Strange, superpowers take an enchanting shape; heroes and villains cause the world to twist, turn, fold and shrink, defy and rewrite the laws of physics all at once. It was up to Luma to create a world deeply steeped in magic.
Working across the Santa Monica and Melbourne studios, Luma completed three sequences for the movie, which is being called one of the most visually stunning visual effects films ever made.
Luma got involved early on in the production, developing the look and feel of the heavily featured Dark Dimension realm. Inspiration for the Dark Dimension was pulled from the original 1960s “Doctor Strange” comics, which translated into a fully living environment drenched in toxicity and filled with organisms that aim to decimate anyone in their way. The Luma crew found the intersection between a photorealistic world and a blacklight poster, along with bringing to life the Dark Dimension's evil ruler, Dormammu.
Luma delivered the jaw-dropping opening sequence in London, which features buildings that contort and break apart into kaleidoscopic shapes, inspired by surrealist art and the graphic works of M.C. Escher. The sequence was a massive undertaking because it was so conceptual that the crew had to start from scratch–almost everything was in CG. Special attention was paid to Director Scott Derrickson's leading creative principle that everything appear as grounded in reality as possible. Luma explored every possible way in which buildings could disobey the laws of physics and behave in an alien fashion, and be executed in such a hyper-realistic way that it would not take the audience away from the story.
In order to make the VFX stun-worthy, the Luma team devised bespoke tools to bring their vision to fruition. For the London sequence, Luma developed the means to handle not only the massive rendering of dense and complex fractals with the appropriate textures, but to also have the fractals complement the architecture. The team went through hundreds of fractal designs and mathematical equations to achieve the end result.
“While these processes are incredibly creative, often times they are more mechanical by nature. Usually we know how to tackle problems, and it’s with technology that isn’t as abstract as what needed to be made for this film,” says Luma’s VFX Supervisor Vincent Cirelli. “For this project, we had to create new technology in-house, specifically for the purpose of the film. It was the first time in my career that I looked at a previs and because the visuals were unlike anything we had seen before, initially we didn’t know exactly how we would execute it – but knew we would.”
“Doctor Strange” is a clear-cut example of the tenacity and expansive creative thinking that Luma brings to each and every project. Building eco-systems from scratch, reimagining reality as we know it and developing characters all shot entirely in 3D had the team working for nearly a year from start to finish. Big risks and bold choices are apparent throughout the sequences delivered by Luma, which critics are praising as the new gold standard of VFX work.
As the creative studio nears its 15-year mark, nothing else heralds the beginning of the next era for Luma like the stirring creative and artistic highpoint of Doctor Strange