When audiences binged-watched the first series of Netflix’s Daredevil earlier this year, they quickly praised the Marvel show’s darker comic book feel populated with several hard-hitting raw fight sequences. Adding to that visceral style were the visual effects enhancements by Shade, with the ninth episode of the series (‘Speak of the Devil’) has been recognized with an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects In A Supporting Role. We asked Shade visual effects supervisor Bryan Godwin about the work.
fxg: How important were seamless VFX in this particular episode and the series?
Godwin: Daredevil has been called "A hard hitting crime show first, and superhero show second". Keeping all of the visual effects grounded, real and invisible was critical to support the show's vision and keep the action feeling gritty and in-camera at all times. In this episode we had a huge fight sequence, with over the top weaponry, stunts and fire. The fact that no one watched the Red Ninja fight and said "Wow, awesome vfx!!!" was exactly the reaction we wanted.
fxg: Clearly, though, your weapon, blood and stunt shots are there for safety reasons - but how were what the final shots were going to look like communicated to the actors and crew?
Godwin: We worked very closely with the designer and stunt coordinator; Phillip J Silvera and his team to map out the entire sequence. They actually shot live action "previz" of the entire fight so that everyone, including the creatives, fx artists and stunt actors would know what we needed to do in advance. Additionally, this gave us some time to design and create the physics based simulations that drove the CG kyetsu shoge chain weapon, which we shared tests of with the creative team.
fxg: What kind of on-set requirements were necessary, ie measurements, surveys, photography, scans? Can you discuss matching the lighting and look of the show in your vfx work?
Godwin: Our incredible and tireless DFX Supervisor; Karl Coyner was on set throughout the entirety of the series. Particularly with this sequence we knew we would need a very detailed survey of the set to accurately create lighting, reflections and interactions with the cg elements. Karl took physical measurements, HRDI photography and created detailed lighting diagrams to send back to the VFX team. Knowing how critical the photorealism of this scene would be we even brought in a Lidar scanner to get detailed 3d scan data of the set. Images were then projected on to this rough CG model which created very accurate reflections in our CG weapons. This process was used for most of the larger vfx intensive shots throughout the show.
fxg: How did you approach weapon shots - how much modeling of the actual weapon and also the person brandishing it was required?
Godwin: We built full models of all the weapons, including several different rigs that could go from fully simulated to hand keyframed or a blend in-between for the chain on the kyetsu shoge. In the live action portion, the actors most often just had a ring and a knife handle throughout the fight. In some instances, when safety allowed; we were able to use a black cord with a green rubber weight on the end so that the stunt performance would be able to feel the action of the weapon. For all shots, our amazing stunt team acted out the full sequence in detail with a safe version of the knife and chain so their movements would feel realistic and fluid.
fxg: Blood spurts, cuts and grazes are sometimes considered easier vfx shots - but they are some of the trickiest to get right - how did you tackle them?
David Van Dyke, Visual Effects Producer
Bryan Godwin, Visual Effects Supervisor
Karl Coyner, Digital Effects Supervisor
Steve J. Sanchez, Senior Compositing Lead
Julie Long, Visual Effects Coordinator
Pedro Tarrago, Visual Effects Editor
Neiko Nagy, Associate Compositing Lead
Moshe Swed, CG Artist
Kjell Strode, FX Technical Director
Godwin: We did a TON of "wetwork" in this show. Daredevil is a major departure for Marvel in that it has a ton of blood, gore and on screen death in contrast to the majority of its other properties. These effects are tricky, and there's no one stop solution for every shot. We used a combination of Realflow simulations, particles and Maya fluids, and even elements that we shot ourselves specifically for certain shots. Additionally, our exceptional Matchmove team, headed up by Moshe Swed, matchmoved many of the performances so we have accurate tracking to project or attach our injuries to.
fxg: What kind of digi-double challenges were there in this ep?
Godwin: At the climax of the scene our battered but not yet beaten hero makes a hail Mary dive out of the warehouse and into the river. Of course, this couldn't be safely achieved without the use of a digital double. We scanned Charlie Cox in his black DD uniform and used this as the basis of our double.
Additionally, even though it isn't seen throughout the fight, we did matchmove all of the actions of Nobu throughout. This was necessary to create physically accurate hand and arm movements to drive the simulation of the kyetsu shoge throughout the scene.
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