SANTA MONICA, CA & MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Creative studio Luma (www.lumapictures.com) teamed up with director Jon Watts and VFX supervisor Janek Sirrs to deliver visual effects work for 11 sequences featured in the new film Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film includes a standout villain named the Vulture — a street-level guy who turns to illegal activities to take care of his family.
Luma worked on key sequences featuring the Vulture, many of which required creating and animating a weighty CG Vulture wing-suit that allows the villain to go toe-to-toe with Spider-Man. In the beginning of the film, Adrian Toomes builds his alien technology empire after being fired from his previous blue-collar job. Eight years later, his guns are bigger and badder, he’s naturally grown greedier and his mechanical wing-suit is the size of a small airplane. He makes his first grand entrance into the lab as the ceiling door opens up, he spreads his wings and swoops onto his platform in a hard landing, smugly boasting that “business is good!”
It was up to the Luma crew to create this landing scene, which required a full CG Vulture and landing platform with articulated arms. Luma used Vulture’s geometry from two other vendors on the show and incorporated that into their pipeline.
“We were aiming to tie the suit and the warehouse into the same world to make it feel industrial and real, but also not as refined of a suit as Iron Man's. The mood and contrasting raw metals of the wings helped bring Vulture's suit into the same world as the set”, says CG supervisor Andrew Zink.
Animators then brought the domineering Vulture to life, which proved to be a complicated thing: he is a dynamic tank that hovers over the ground. His two turbines are controlled by exoskeleton arms which act as the sole propulsors, so the amount of RPMs and the angles in which they lean creates a push and pull effect. Animators also had to consider his unique wing shape, flight trajectory and predatory poses to perfect his flight and fast landing.
The rookie Spider-Man discovers Vulture’s henchmen selling alien technology to a wanting criminal and chases after their van as he runs through backyards, unapologetically destroying everything in his path (the scene is a parody of the famous Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “The Race Home”). Vulture saves his henchmen as he violently swoops in and grabs Spider-Man in the same way a real vulture would grab its prey. He rapidly ascends into the sky travelling at 208 mph before dropping him into a lake.
To create this completely virtual sequence, “animators began blocking with simplistic Google Maps photography and drone photography to work out the aesthetics of what the surroundings would look like”, recalls VFX supervisor Kevin Souls. For Vulture’s character, animators tackled the challenge of animating the hefty wing-suit that, while also making sure it was dynamic enough to fight with a swift and speedy
“We like to ground our characters in real world physics, so our animators use a variety of Luma created tools to track speed, gravity and archs — it’s easier to bend the rules once you understand them,” explains animation supervisor Raphael A. Pimentel.
Luma worked on the first fight battle between Vulture and Spider-Man, where Spider-Man interrupts Vulture from stealing supplies from the Damage Control truck. Initially tasked with enhancing the sequence, Luma realized early on that it would be easier to recreate the sequence in full CG in order to add camera moves and to work with the portal (the alien technology that allows Vulture to travel through the roof of the truck). Since this was a close-up and constrained fight, animators had to ensure that Spider-Man looked weighty and in control, while also ensuring that the Vulture build was dynamic enough to fight with him.
Luma didn’t just create a stunning villain for Spider-Man: Homecoming, the studio’s varied scope of work also included creating and animating a full CG Spider-Man for various sequences, the disintegration effect on Bryce's character, the ATM sequence, and the Crime Fighting sequence where a rookie Spider-Man head outs into the city attempting to stop petty crime.
“This is definitely the proudest I’ve been of the crew that I work with,” says VFX supervisor Brendan Seals. “The passion and hard work they put into this film really shows the kind of talented people we have at Luma and how much care about the artistry of their work they have.”
Luma is currently working on Marvel’s Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok and Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time.