When Doctor Strange first gets plunged into multiple dimensions by the Ancient One, we see him travel through several psychedelic realms. It was a sequence dubbed the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ by the filmmakers, and in this vfxblog article we look at how specific pieces of the incredible imagery were produced, thanks to overall vfx supervisor
Stephane Ceretti, The Third Floor previs and postvis supe Faraz Hameed and Method Studios vfx supervisor Olivier Dumont.
“The whole idea was to really make something very special, quite trippy, based on some psychedelic things that were in the comics when they were made in the 60s and 70s. We started to build an animatic and a previs based on all these concepts that we had.” – overall vfx supervisor Stephane Ceretti.
“From the start, we worked with the art department to brainstorm ideas in a ‘sand box.’ It was amazing to be given time to explore and help develop the visual landscape for the film. The director, Scott Derrickson, fed us a lot of visual reference from art, films and mathematics. It was a very exciting period, as getting the visual tone for Doctor’s Strange’s story was so important. The RnD process allowed us to approach story ideas in the previs with the many visual palettes that we had absorbed. Our artists were like inter-dimensional and fractal pros at the end of the film, expert at representing concepts like time collapsing or light expanding.” – The Third Floor previs and postvis supe Faraz Hameed
“One of the biggest challenges was visualizing some of Strange’s transformations. He had to be distorted, torn apart, reassembled, duplicated and so on while interacting with the environments. We normally design and compose previs shots, so this was a much deeper dive into RnD. We tried a lot of things – deformers, particles, cheat cards, simulations, dynamics, with resources shared between The Third Floor’s Los Angeles and London crews. The sequence took six months to develop, including making sure the shots being visualized were shootable!” – The Third Floor previs and postvis supe Faraz Hameed
“It’s a sequence that is both POV of what he sees but also goes outside of him and you can see him travel through these dimensions. We had a special gimbal unit working on the side for two to three weeks to get the shot ready and we shot that in about two days with Benedict. And actually my additional supervisor Chris Shaw took care of that, preparing all that work for us. Our special effects supervisor created a system to hold Benedict in an arm, and all of that was pre-programmed with motion control and everything so that we could match the previs.” – overall vfx supervisor Stephane Ceretti.
“This one is what we call the sub-solid Mandelbrot world. We had different stories about how to explain this one until we nailed that down into having those hands climbing on him and then having this little ‘Mini-me’ into his eye. This one was more like he’s getting into the fractal world with constantly moving pieces and evolving pieces around him that are made of some kind of a sand-like material. This was also a very interesting point for the story because the whole story is about his hands, how he can get his hands back after the accident.” – Method Studios vfx supervisor Olivier Dumont.
“It’s all formula to get this Mandelbrot looking a certain way. The problem with that is, it looks great, but it’s not very controllable in terms of what type you want to achieve. It’s more like a loop and then you grab the frame runs that you like. And the way we build it, it’s like building the main shape of the environment and then putting on that the moving pieces that would just intersect with each other, and then adding another layer when we will have the hands coming out and blending the wall together.” – Method Studios vfx supervisor Olivier Dumont.
“Strange is looking at his hands you see other hands coming from everywhere engulfing his body, grabbing the shirt and everything. He looks at his hands and there was a plate for that but then we had to switch it very quickly to CG in order to be able to control all the creases and the wrinkles and everything that are being caused by the hands climbing on him. And then even the face had to be redone in CG in order to get the proper expression, especially when you get into the hands when they just kind of a projection gag. It’s kind of an old gag, but it’s when you project something onto an object and if you project it from a certain perspective and you look from another point of view it doesn’t make any sense, like, completely abstract. But as you move the camera around and emit the camera that the picture was projected from then the picture can make sense.” – Method Studios vfx supervisor Olivier Dumont.
“Then we had to go into his eye. That means you have to find a transition to go from something that is projected into something that is full CG. And then you get the mini-Strange coming and going into the pupil as well as to transform into a tunnel with all the effects that goes around because the iris is becoming very reflective with this kind of a waterfall-like effect with a lot of energy going around. So it’s all transitions, and the difficulty was we need to make from one stage to the other very smoothly.” – Method Studios vfx supervisor Olivier Dumont.
“This is the speaker cone. It’s when Strange comes into some kind of a black hallway and he is becoming layers of himself. That starts in space and then he’s being sucked into a hole. We call that the speaker cone because it’s something that vibrates in space.We were looking for a material that’s very close to graphite, and it’s vibrating all the time and it’s surrounded with some kind of rocky belt.” – Method Studios vfx supervisor Olivier Dumont.
“It was a lot of work in previs, conceptualizing everything, shooting the elements, then putting it together, editing it, post-vising it, and then turning it over to Method to create the worlds, create all these environments. And Method also did a lot of work on their side creatively to help us put these things together. So it was a huge effort between everybody all led by Scott Derrickson. Scott was really into that sequence in terms of design and shot design and everything.” – overall vfx supervisor Stephane Ceretti.