Dark Puma: Wakanda Until the end of time VFX Artist On Talokan & More

Dark Puma: Wakanda Until the end of time presented the submerged city of Talokan to the MCU, but how did Wētā FX bring this world to life on the huge screen?

Dark Puma: Wakanda Forever's shocking visual impacts brought the submerged city of Talokan to life. The Wonder Cinematic Universe has been persistently growing in Stage 4, and Dark Puma: Wakanda Until the end of time presented a modern submerged kingdom. The city of Talokan is ruled over by Namor the Sub-Mariner, played by Tenoch Huerta and clearly set up as a control player within the future of the MCU.

Namor may be a classic comedian book character, in spite of the fact that both he and his individuals have been drastically rehashed for the MCU; within the comics, he's the ruler of Atlantis. But Wonder chose to switch things up, maybe in portion since they knew watchers had as of now been treated to DC's adaptation of the submerged city of Atlantis in Aquaman. Wonder has continuously been attentive of basically rehashing what has been done some time recently, and so they moved Namor's kingdom to seaward South America, establishing it in a completely distinctive culture.

Normally, the presentation of an submerged kingdom implied Dark Puma: Wakanda Until the end of time was extraordinarily challenging - both in terms of viable and uncommon impacts. The ultimate film could be a triumph, in spite of the fact that, with Talokan feeling both one of a kind (when compared to comparative thoughts in other establishments) and vital. Screen Rage had the opportunity to talk to Wētā FX's Sidney Kombo-Kintombo almost how Talokan was brought to life.

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Screen Tirade: For the good thing about our perusers, might you grant us a run-through of your team's inclusion with Wakanda Until the end of time, particularly which parts of the film your group was included with?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: We started pretty early on. Still during the previs and some of the early development phase. When I talked with Jeff Bowman, the overall VFX supervisor, we had split it up that we were going to do all the deeper underwater section of the film. Some VFX houses were above, on the surface, we were down below. There were a couple of research projects we wanted to do in terms of the look of it, there were some tools we wanted to set up. From a story point of view, the sequences were the mining mission in the beginning, when they go down and find the vibranium; some of Nakia's dive down into the water, all of Talokan underwater, and some of the end battles with the vibranium detector and those beasts in that realm.

We're at a time where there are a part of movies set submerged, indeed within the superhero class. How did you oversee to create Wakanda Until the end of time feel so diverse?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: There were two parts to it. From that initial research phase, they said they wanted our water to look very realistic - Ryan [Coogler] had this idea they were underwater, but it should be kind of like deep space. They were in these pressurized suits that Shuri made, it should feel as though she's entering this dark realm. I think there's even a quote from this old woman above to Nakia, saying, 'He pulls them down into the deep.' So there's this feeling of depth. From a research point of view, we really leaned into how we make the water feel as realistic as possible. But then we also put in some creative controls, because we're going to want to keep things and see certain things. We had a whole research project, and a lot of that affected the aesthetic. We didn't have a lot of visibility; the lights light up where they're moving around, there's also this concept of the "blue wall," this idea that divers say there's almost this wall of cloudiness or turbidity, where things come out of it and you can't see very far. You'll see whales appear out of nowhere, or architecture will appear out of nowhere. There's almost this journey, as visibility gets wider and wider as Shuri gets closer to the main city. It was a combination of this particular aesthetic. And we leaned into this realistic cloudy, murky water, which you don't often see a lot in films.

The scenes underneath the water felt as genuine as the ones over, and I think that's a huge compliment to the VFX group. What impacts did you employ to create the characters feel as in spite of the fact that they were submerged in key scenes?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: There's a balance to be found. A lot of stuff we shot in the tank as well; the mining mission was CG, but we shot it in the tank as a great reference, using the actual suits. There is a balance to strike, because when they're in these domes, refraction means their heads look really small. We had to do special tools to kind of un-refract that, find the balance how Shuri's head could look as though it was underwater without losing the expressions in her face. We had to develop for the actors, but there was also a bit of work with skin tones. It was important you could read skin tones, because there is a difference above the water - the cooler - and then they get the natural tones. Part of it was getting the rendering for the digi-doubles, we used them to be accurate, really looked into how melanin in skin affects the look of skin in water; the light bounces around inside your skin, exits quicker, so people look a little bit more glowy, don't have highlights. There are different properties that we needed to have control over, and giving them shape and color. Then one of our bigger challenges is that red light naturally absorbs quicker underwater, it doesn't last very long, but all the architecture was red, and the skin-tones are warm. We had the technical challenge where we needed to be realistic underwater, but we also needed to carry on this story point. A lot of our tools were developed to give us this realistic base, and controls to augment that to fulfil the creative brief.

It sounds very challenging.

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: Yeah, that was the part that bended your brain a little bit. We needed it to look like this, but it doesn't happen underwater, so how do we find that medium? But some of it is, you look at other properties in the water. You'll see in the scenes, the marine snow - which is the kind of stuff that floats around as they churn up. We spent a lot of time looking at that, in the interaction with characters. To feel that floaty underwater feeling.

I'd studied approximately you utilizing marine snow reenactments. What is marine snow, and how did you recreate it?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: A lot of it's really fish poop. It's floating around everywhere, there's all complex layers of fish that feed on other fish in it, you could go into it forever talking about it. We modeled every little bit of it, we had someone full-time doing the simulations. So when they moved, we moved it around; we had dry-for-wet shots not shot in the tank, and clothing and marine snow would be moved digitally. The other important thing was that it was being lit by these lights. A lot of our research was to replicate the look of the anamorphic lenses from the live-action shots, they spent a lot of time on set adjusting and re-tuning the lenses to get this distinctive look. It was important that, when you went below the surface, the effects shots look exactly the same as they'd been filmed. So our development team worked on this for over six months, just matching the lenses and making tools. So some of the stuff we see underwater, we had this beautiful rendering, but the lens optics were adjusted with astigmatism, stuff like that. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the show, manipulating those images to be more organic.

It must have been challenging to coordinate the way the light carries on.

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: Deep underwater is very computatively intensive. Part of it was how to create tools to render as realistically as possible and adjust it. There were many discussions about how turbid or cloudy the water is, how does the light bounce around, what is the source of the light? The nice thing about it was that we all became water experts in terms of light. The language became more precise; when Jeff would say he wanted more diffusion or turbidity, or Ryan wants more turbidity, we all know what principle that is and what to adjust for that. It's one of the fun things about this, the crazy amount of stuff you dig into. We were using research from the 1970s, measuring water around the world. We had a library of water material, we'd show it to Ryan, show it to Jeff, they'd ask for more of a North Atlantic feel, mixed in with a little of that. And that was how we'd balance some of our water, because we had this spectral rendered to work with more realistic values.

Seem you tell us a small around how you planned Talokan, and brought the city to life so viably?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: Marvel's production designers had developed a lot of research into the structures, the architecture, the history, and the people that lived there. So there were early-days discussions about how this city would exist; part of our task was, 1) pre-vis, working with Ryan and Jeff, because we got to think about how you traveled through the city and what parts you saw. Then, 2) at the same time we were building all the architecture, there were corn simulations - a lot of people miss the corn, they swim over corn, when the sun rises there's corn behind them. We had deep discussions about this underwater corn, which was kind of red but had these translucent husks, it's based on a Mayah thing of three sisters, there's a lot we did. We filled it with different inhabitants, there are different regions of the city that serve as different parts. Throughout the entire project, we built the city, the sunlight, the look and feel, especially around the throne room area. That was especially important, the feeling of Namor and the aesthetic there took a lot of time.

How much of the position of authority room was physical and how much was CGI?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: Physical for the throne and some of the steps underneath, the surroundings of it had a representation on set that we replaced with CG. Those are where we got into some of the dry-for-wet shots, where the actors were on wires and rigs. We'd add a headdress and clothing, things like that. it was important to the story that the throne room had a particular feel, with eels coming in and out of the walls in the background, it had this slightly... I wouldn't say creepy, but tense feeling. Beautiful carvings all throughout the doors, and then that sun above.

I was getting to inquire approximately the Talokan Sun. How did you make that, and render it so viably?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: It's actually a pretty complex setup. In the end, you're kind of wide in all the shots, so you never see it as close. The light source is inside a design of whale bones and kelp, the light illuminates through it, and there's this obsidian glass that it shines through. One of the things we added into that, you'll see light getting a prismatic effect, we put some of that into the light source to give it a little bit of brilliance. It wasn't just a white light, it had this kind of defractive properties to it. It ended up so wide in the final layout, there was a lot of discussion. The idea that bringing the sun to the people, it needed to illuminate everything.

Moving to the individuals of Talokan, how did you plan and make the Talokanil and their animals?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: The Talokanil, there were on-set actors who played different characters, Ruth Carter designed different outfits. Weta workshopped the hero characters, but we followed the lead of the characters on-set and made a series of digi-doubles to match the different groups, the warriors and different citizens. Part of our input was also into the design of the marine life, we researched what lives very deep under the water - hatchet fish and snail fish, and tubeworms, there's beautiful NASA footage of the deep hydrothermal vents, we used a lot of that as reference. That footage was amazing, I didn't know anything about that until after this project.

You specified a few of the legend characters. I'm assuming you cruel Attuma and Namora. What portion did you've got in planning those, and how did you folks bring them to life?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: A lot of our work with those characters involved digital versions to match on-set costumes that had been designed. Namora had this headdress, there were times we'd add that digitally, same with dry-for-wet shots with Namor. A lot of our work with the main characters was working to the brilliant designs they'd come up with, making digital versions of them.

How did you oversee to form the crowns carry on legitimately submerged?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: I'd almost forgot about this until you mentioned it, one of the first things they did in pre-vis was get early access to the tank, so they put in different materials and had a stunt team go in, do all this sitting down and moving that Namor did. This helped our dry-for-wet shots, we weren't just trying to imagine what it should look like, we had a nice video-reference. Then our creatures department, running the simulations, could see where things were off and adjust the stiffness. Then some of this would be creative too, you didn't want certain things flapping up, you'd have to weigh them down.

What would you say was the hardest portion of Wakanda Forever's water impacts?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: The toughest part is the computation needed to do it correctly. The principles involved takes a lot of computation, getting the balance right of having the correct detail, being in control with creativity, getting that balance. But we always had the principle of you learn the rules, and then you're allowed to break them, but try to learn them first.

With the third-act fight, there's an terrible part going on there. What parts did Wētā play in that?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: Our part was mostly them coming up to the vibranium detectors, and then they come up and there's Namora smashing the bottom of the sonic emitter. Since we were below the surface, that was what we covered, a combination of tank shoots and CG as well.

What accomplishment would you say you're most pleased of in Wakanda Until the end of time?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: It's odd because it goes back and forth. I love the look of Talokan and the city, I've always found environments appealing. But, personally, I do love the mining mission. There's shots in there that just don't feel generated, it's hard to describe but it's organic, cloudy, all the things in the aesthetic that I kind of like. Even the way the light flared, you almost throw away some of the detail, I like when things are hidden and not fully visible, there's a lot of that in that sequence. It appeals to my aesthetic. You know there's stuff out there, but you can barely make it out.

I'm mindful Wētā FX is working on Avatar 2 as well. Did you utilize any of the same strategies there, or did a few of the lessons you learned complement that?

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo: We've been learning about water for many years, trying to get a better understanding of it. All the things we've learned have informed both, everything that we're doing. With Wakanda, this unique area deep below gave us such a different aesthetic, it's kind of like we're always doing research. It never ends, continuing to help with the multiple shows.
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