Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - Orb Power Gem
The visuals of Guardians of the Galaxy are stunning and incredibly realistic. So realistic that you forget it's CGI. They make the Star Wars prequels look faker than a high school video project. Method Studios is one of the special effects companies working on the films and shared some amazing behind-the-scenes photos of the making of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Method Studios describes themselves as "an award-winning international visual effects group with facilities in Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, London, Sydney and Melbourne." There were 13 companies that worked on Guardians including MPC, Framestore, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Imageworks and an in-house unit, plus previs/postvis teams from Proof and The Third Floor.

Alien Landscapes

Method created several digital environments utilizing full CG elements and dimensional matte painting techniques.  They consisted of sequences within the interior of Ronan's spaceship, a surreal cosmic landscape for a flashback sequence between Gamora and Star-Lord, several shots in the floating city of Nowhere, and exterior skies and cityscape seen from the Nova Corp command center, complete with spaceships.

The Orb

The shots illustrating the origins of the Power Stone within the orb, involve mechanical arms opening the sphere’s complex mechanisms.  Method artists replaced the practical arms shot on set which allowed their movement to be much faster and more intricate. They also intensified the light source and created interactive casts of vivid purple light on CG geometry to illuminate the surrounding environment and people. “They wanted to tell the story of these arms spinning around like a Rubik’s Cube,” says Method Studios visual effects supervisor Greg Steele. “It was really a high tech 360 degree Rubik’s Cube – it has this interlocking mechanism. Each time something is unlocked there is something inside of that. So a little bit of light would start bleeding out of the cracks.”

“They shot things on set with a physical placeholder,” adds Steele. “We changed the top of the table to make it more of a computer screen. We added little threads of particle energy. Then when it opens you see the reveal, a combination of particles in Houdini and rendered in V-Ray. It then shoots up a dome around them which is a net of little circular screens around them. On the screens he’s telling the story of the Infinity Stones and the birth of the universe, so on the screens we created material like the big bang – a huge 8K element done in Houdini with a ton of different layers we could adjust.”

Nova Corp Hologram Table

For the final battle, Method Studios created content for the holographic table at Nova Corp command center. The holo table was used to provide an overview on the battle raging above the city and other info graphics. Greg notes “The director wanted it to have a more tangible look than what you normally see in holograms, to suggest a very advanced technology. So we rendered more photorealistic information for the top of the table and interspersed that with polymetric graphics and light effects.”

The other holographic display was utilized in the Collector’s lab sequence, where the Collector character explains the origins and devastating power of the Power Stone to the film’s protagonists.  For the oval shaped "vid shields" that surround the characters, Method created content for the displays such as the big bang, infinity stones and destruction sequence. The Black Fire used by [the Celestrial] to destroy the planet underwent much R&D. The resulting simulation includes smoke with purple burning embers involving 2D elements composited with particles and a fluids for the final prismatic glow. “Originally it started out with more traditional holographic looks,” says Method visual effects supervisor Greg Steele, who shared duties with Stéphane Nazé. “We were able to get models from MPC of the Dark Aster and some of the ships and we started putting together a rough approximation of the city.”

“In the lookdev,” adds Steele, “the director went for a more photorealistic look – less of a light based thing and more of a volume thing that you could reach out and touch. From there we added city at the bottom. With the city there, the ships would be so small at this scale, so he had do things where the ships would zoom up or a squadron of ships would zoom up while keeping the ships in scale. MPC gave us all the models of the city and walkways and things and we did these as V-Ray proxies at rendertime.”

See more at: http://www.methodstudios.com

What did you think of the special effects for Guardians of the Galaxy?

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I thought the special effects were some of the best I've seen. They fit so seamlessly with the real live action. Those images above are fascinating.


I finally got to see it last weekend. I loved the look it had, it gave me hope that Star Wars will be just as good or better.


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