The third season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” introduced new Inhumans — and their various powers necessitated a whole new set of VFX. The action has centered on Quake (Chloe Bennet), who leads the Secret Warriors of Inhumans and generates powerful waves of vibrations that resemble earthquakes.
“She has a wonderful story arc in terms of growth and grappling with her powers,” said VFX supervisor Mark Kolpack, who designs the looks and works closely with the actors to get their body performances in sync with the VFX. “Heroes always have chest out, chin down. No one would ever pose like this but when you couple it with the visual effect and the performance and the intensity of the scene, it all becomes one.”
Quake confidently displays her powers with a new outfit, haircut and way to move, firing with extended bursts. The VFX for her was tricky, with a column of rings surrounded by shock rings of seismic energy. Then she’s overtaken by Hive (the parasitic Inhuman that’s a mashup of chemicals) and becomes lethal, killing Malick (Powers Boothe). As a result, the effect was made more angular and jagged, her hand grip was adjusted slightly and fingers to make her look more claw-like. FuseFX is the lead house, providing simulations and particles.
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Joey (Juan Pablo Raba) is the Inhuman who destabilizes objects. “We got into Houdini and worked out how objects look when they melt because it’s not heat driven,” Kolpack said. “So we went through a process of different simulations for viscosity and weight until we settled on one that looked cool.”
Then there’s Lash, who creates energy blasts. “Part of it was a solar flare with an ethereal piece with ghosting particles,” Kolpack added. “When Lash puts his hand on you, it’s a contact-driven weapon: the energy enters you, he pulls his hand back and it blows a hole in your chest like a grenade and bursts forward.”
Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), or Yo-Yo, is a speedster unlike Quicksilver and Flash. Her limitation is that she can only move within a single heartbeat. The producers stipulated a slingshot movement, according to the VFX supervisor: She has to return to where she began. “At the speed she’s moving, her single heartbeat could be 10 minutes,” Kolpack said. “We didn’t want to be derivative so we thought of persistence of vision.”
So they captured her at a high frame rate, slowed her down and, with every step, she leaves a ghost trail that adds texture and intrigue to the look of her design.
Blair Underwood returns as Andrew Garner this season and transforms into Lash. The team did an exaggeration of the Hulk transformation with mocap, only Lash looks nothing like the actor. They created a series of detailed scans with photogrammetry stitching and polarized light fields for textures. The work included hair development, cloth ripping and tearing simulation and animated eye changes.
The villainous Shadow Man offered a further challenge. His look consisted of an exoskeleton concept of blowing solder onto a mannequin with tendrils across the face and body. Plus, there was an effects layer on top to make it otherworldly.
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“We had mist sucking into his body like a black hole instead of coming out of his body,” Kolpack said. It started out as a 2D shadow, which became 3D, allowing two-way contact. The team used the high-speed motion control Bolt rig along with the first-time TV use of an optical-free mocap suit with built-in sensors that replicate the motion of the actor.
“It’s about interfacing with the actors and explaining their poses and showing them visual references,” Kolpack said. The actor has to trust the VFX supervisor that they are not going to look stupid. The more uncomfortable it feels, the more cool it begins to look.”
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” concludes its season with the two-hour finale, “Absolution/Ascension,” on Tuesday.
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