In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel Studios pushes the boundaries of reality – and then continues. With shattered universes, environments shrouded in illusions, and magical world-shattering traps, the film introduces unprecedented visual elements. To help show audiences a fresh take on reality, Marvel Studios turned to longtime VFX partner and Oscar-winning studio Digital Domain.
“In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness visuals play an important role in the storytelling process, as characters jump from one incredible reality to another, seeing impossible things as they go,” said Joel Behrens, VFX Supervisor for Digital Domain. “It gave us the opportunity to create worlds and new realities for audiences to enjoy, something most artists can only dream of doing.”
worlds and worlds
During his desperate flight through the ‘Multiverse’, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) at some point finds himself at the center of an ‘incursion’, highlighting the consequences of two realities colliding. Although people are gone, pieces of the decimated universes continue to exist, with broken buildings no longer held in check by gravity and the ghostly remains of dead civilizations passing by. At the heart of these dead realities, one structure remains standing: a warped version of Doctor Strange’s home, the Sanctum Sanctorum.
To create the Metaversal Destruction scene, the filmmakers used a combination of physical and digital effects, starting with a practical two-story stage with blue screens above and around the stage. As performers move through the crumbling, prop-filled streets of a familiar version of New York City, digital artists added the sky – including shattered buildings and wreckage from two floating realities.
Digital Domain began by designing pieces from two separate realities, each with their own distinct style. Using Houdini and V-Ray for lighting and rendering, the artists began by creating several CG elements ranging from debris to vehicles to building chunks. For the premiere of Two Earths, the materials looked familiar and would be at home in our own New York City (and even included a CG version of a certain 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 that fans of director Sam Raimi’s films will surely appreciate). doubt) . Major assets, including buildings, were then shattered into countless pieces of debris, which were then animated to suggest fluid motion of shattered structures in the dead void above.
With the familiar assets complete, Digital Domain then began building the remains of a Victorian-inspired version of New York, complete with Gothic spiers and ornate metalwork. To showcase this alternate world, the artists began by adapting familiar structures, including the Brooklyn Bridge and several other modified pieces. After reimagining them both under a Steampunk lens, the CG assets were then smashed into pieces and animated before being added to the cluttered sky.
With the ruined and moving worlds created, Digital Domain then combined the digital content with the live footage from the incursion, adding the objects in the sky and the extension of the streets. The scene was then topped by a haunting gray sky reminiscent of fog, but reflecting the absence of anything beyond. With the shattered materials in motion, the artists then took things a step further and showed pieces of crumbling cities colliding with each other, creating even more debris. The VFX team also digitally recreated part of the physical set to bring the collisions down to street level.
As the world crumbles around him, Doctor Strange heads for the one place he thinks could help him find a way home: an alternate version of Sanctum Sanctorum. But once he arrives, it’s clear that the alternate version of his home is a very different place to the one he left behind. To create the “Sinister Sanctum,” Digital Domain began by digitally reconstructing the once inviting structure from the ground up to make it look more like a mausoleum than a shrine. The artists then built on top of this by extending and animating the collapsing roof as it recedes into the void, while combining CG skulls with the physical skull props scattered around the floor. In total, Digital Domain only used one existing item for the footage, the shattered remains of the iconic window.
Once inside, the alternate Sanctum Sanctorum further highlights the broken nature of the world, with physical scenery replacing the floor and walls, and blue screens for the rest. Using plates taken on a beach in Iceland, Digital Domain created a CG ocean in Houdini, then flooded the scene digitally. The VFX studio then took footage of the physical stairway on set and extended it to show it leading to a seemingly endless march upwards, before disappearing into fog-like haze.
Apples and illusions
With the multiverse at stake, Doctor Strange enlists the help of an ally and fellow magic user, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who is still dealing with the emotional fallout from the events depicted in the Disney+ series. , Wanda Vision. She and Strange discuss the multiverse while strolling through an idyllic apple orchard, filmed on location at a real farm in England. Things change quickly, however, and the orchard is replaced by a distorted and twisted environment, digitally created to visually convey the consequences of dark magic.
The transformation sequence begins with an effect similar to the magic hexagonal wall effect seen in Wanda Vision. To create this look for the series, Digital Domain worked with the showrunners to come up with a look that felt like a natural extension of Wanda’s powers, but with a more chaotic and powerful feel. After several iterations, the new Hex Power was introduced with the character of Scarlet Witch.
Once the true surroundings are revealed, the live action shifted from filming on location to a blue screen set. Digital Domain teams developed the corrupted version of the orchard, highlighted by twisted and crumbling trees, dusty ground and red skies covering it all. The once welcoming farmhouse – digitally created – has also been replaced with a crumbling shell of itself. The artists also added swamp gas and the sun, but filtered through the dark, almost impenetrable clouds. It’s a scene straight out of a nightmare, setting the tone for events to come.
Mirrors and Traps
After the film’s villain is revealed, the heroes head to the magical fortress of Kamar-Taj, where they prepare for a battle that pits magic against magic. During the battle, Wanda finds herself caught in a unique and powerful trap, where mirrors and reflections become a prison.
Digital Domain started at the very beginning with the preview of the sequence to establish the complete look and movements. Artists then began creating a smaller, more contained version of the Mirror Kingdom originally introduced in 2016. Doctor Strange. As the character Wanda moves through the Mirror Realm, throws a hex bolt, created using the same Digital Domain techniques used for Wanda’s evolutionary magic in Wanda Vision. The mirror then shatters, creating multiple shards, generated in Houdini.
For the live-action component, Olsen recorded several versions of the scene, giving filmmakers and VFX artists several reactions to work with. The VFX team then referenced the multiple shots to create multiple looks for Wanda which they then animated, each highlighting a different reaction in the mirror realm. The action then returns to Kamar-Taj, with digidoubles of Wanda pushing through mirrors and reflections. Olsen’s digidoubles—along with Cumberbatch’s digital models created from digital scans of the actor—were later shared with other VFX studios for use throughout the film.
“Part of the reason Marvel Studios has been so successful is that they have a clear vision and understanding of what needs to be done to make this a reality,” said John Fragomeni, Global President of Digital Domain. . “Creating something as unique as a multiverse and marrying it with the magic of reality is no easy task, but we’ve been working with Marvel for years now. Understanding and implementing their vision has been the key to our success, and we can’t wait to show the public what’s next.
Digital Domain’s work on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness marks the latest in a long line of collaborations between Marvel Studios and studio VFX. The team will continue with the episodes Ms. Marvel and She-Hulkthe characteristic Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and more.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters and will begin streaming exclusively on Disney+ on June 22.
A creative force in visual effects and premium content, Digital Domain has brought its artistry and technology to films, including Titanic, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and blockbusters Loan player one, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Staff artists have won more than 100 major awards, including Oscars, Clios, BAFTAs and Cannes Lions. Digital Domain has offices in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Montreal, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Hyderabad.