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June 23
2021

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

ACKNOWLEDGING THE DRAMATIC VISUAL IMPACTS OF JUPITER’S LEGACY

By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Netflix.

Extensive storyboards were created for the Hilltop Fight.

Exploring the impact that celebrities have on a society and on their own children is Jupiter’s Legacy,created by Mark Miller and Frank Quitely, which chronicles the origins of the first superheroes as well as the subsequent trials and tribulations resulting from a generational transition of power and responsibility. Adapting the Image Comics series for Netflix was showrunner Steven S. DeKnight (Daredevil) who was halfway through production when he was replaced by Sang Kyu Kim (Altered Carbon).

Overseeing the digital augmentation for the eight episodes was Visual Effects Producer Christina Graff (Stranger Things), with an epic battle taking place in the pilot. “Because the shoot was so large and the demands for every department was so heavy, visual effects ended up doing a lot of additional work,” states Graff. “Not all of the costumes were ready, so in some shots, like the Union of Justice press conference, there was an actor in a stunt suit with tracking markers.”

“We had multiple time periods, de-aging, superheroes with super powers, set extensions, and fantasy or supernatural, so it’s on par with Harry Potter. It was immense and the biggest thing that I’ve ever done. It was a huge ask of the vendors because we had to design powers of the superheroes, and there were so many.”

—Christina Graff, Visual Effects Producer

Jupiter’s Legacy features multiple time periods, de-aging, superheroes with super powers, set extensions and CG costumes.

The biggest visual effects sequence was the Hilltop fight between Blackstar and Union of Justice.

Numerous shots required digital doubles, so body scans were taken for every superhero in costume for specific scenes.

A large amount of R&D went into developing powers for the large cast of superheroes.

“The Escarpment provided this crazy, challenging place that has forests and crevices. The crevices are so outstanding that you can walk through them. It was also a great place for the characters to be challenged. They’re in maze and don’t know where to go. The shots would be great because we had these overheads from drones. Huge sets were built for the dust storm and the forest where the walls grew, which was repurposed as the alien planet where you see Jupiter. It was a collaboration between all departments in order to make that happen.”

—Christina Graff, Visual Effects Producer

Jupiter’s Legacy had every single component of a large-budget feature. “We had multiple time periods, de-aging, superheroes with super powers, set extensions, and fantasy or supernatural, so it’s on par with Harry Potter,” states Graff. “It was immense and the biggest thing that I’ve ever done. It was a huge ask of the vendors because we had to design powers of the superheroes, and there were so many.” The various ideas were consolidated and given to concept artist Houston Sharp to illustrate what the different superpowers could look like under the guidance of Jim Mitchell [the original visual effects supervisor]. “When I read the script and had meetings with the showrunners, producers, directors and all of the department heads I needed to understand what each character represents. How do you show strength if that’s the power of Lady Liberty [Leslie Bibb]? Her strength was not only physical but also emotional. Because we were able to do some rewrites of scripts, we were able to incorporate situations and find locations that showed those types of strength.”

Some of the vendors had to be on set for their assigned sequences, which meant that they needed to located near Toronto where principal photography was taking place. MR. X and Spin VFX met the criteria, while other significant contributors were DNEG Montreal, Mels Studios in Montreal, Important Looking Pirates based in Stockholm, BOT VFX in India and NetFX. Once the pandemic occurred a remote workflow had to be implemented. The in-house team in Los Angeles used Evercast to review with the showrunners, producers and vendors. “I bought a server for our team that we could remote into that had all of the media [which was downloaded seven days a week],” explains Graff. “The vendors had a much larger issue to deal with. The majority of the shots were in Canada. They had to figure out how to remote into their servers and get every single artist working along with doing internal reviews. Most of the vendors used Teradici.”

“The lights on the alien wall are one of my absolute favorite things because we designed it and figured out what it should look like. It had to be choreographed. I came up with the idea that each symbol should be the same color of a character’s costume. It provided a beautiful, colorful, dazzling image at the end that was awe-inspiring.”

—Christina Graff, Visual Effects Producer

A full 360 greenscreen set was used for the Hilltop Fight.

Principal photography took place in the Niagara Escarpment for the mysterious island shown in the flashback sequences.

The actors on wires were generally stationary unless being lowered for a landing.

The story had to be altered to fit the locations that were found for the mysterious island where each of the characters goes through a specific test to gain their superpowers.

Jupiter’s Legacy had every component of a large-budget feature for the eight episodes.

Jupiter’s Legacy, created by Mark Miller and Frank Quitely, chronicles the origins of the first superheroes and the generational transition of power and responsibility.

“One of the biggest challenges was the Hilltop Fight because everybody at some point or another had a digital double. The environment was CG. We had actors on wires who were generally stationary unless being lowered for a landing. When they’re moving in the air in one form or another, we’re touching whatever the actors are doing. … Some of the most beautiful work is on the Black Lotus ship. I’m proud of the work on Episodes 107 and 108 on the mysterious island, and the Hilltop Fight because it was an immense amount of work on all accounts for all parties involved.”

—Christina Graff, Visual Effects Producer

Numerous shots required digital doubles, so body scans were taken for every superhero in costume for various specific scenes, as well as to allow for the de-aging of characters. “NetFX did an amazing job of de-aging a character for the scenes that took place in the 1930s,” reveals Graff. “There were no facial tracking markers. It was 2D beauty work.” Extensive storyboards were created for the Hilltop Fight in Episode 101 where the Union of Justice assembles to battle Blackstar [Tyler Mane]. “We had to show all of the actors what they will be doing, and it allowed us to set up shots to get specific angles. You have to understand what the objective is for the characters in that specific moment, and that’s my job, the breakdowns. In this case, Jim Mitchell was the first person to do a breakdown. I took it another step further, and the script kept changing too.”

Greenscreen was a major part of the world building. “Because the Hilltop Fight involved all of the characters, serious stunts, a long shoot, and Toronto being famous for not having good weather all of the time, we had to scout what the locations would be, and Jim went out with our DP Danny Ruhlmann [Messiah] to shoot some footage of the hilltop with regular cameras as well as a drone, which was used either to patch in or replicate as a CG environment. That particular set was shot with AstroTurf, so all of that grass needed to be replaced. We were in the largest stage that we could get at Pinewood in Toronto and that was a full 360 greenscreen set. Chester’s Rooftop, where he commits suicide in 1930s Chicago, was an outdoor set. Our art department built a rooftop asphalt that was on a trellis and we had a greenscreen around it.”

A mysterious island sets the entire narrative into motion. “Jim Mitchell, director Marc Jobst [The Witcher], DP Nicole Hirsch Whitaker [Patriot] and I met to rework the story to fit the locations that we had found that would suit these specific tests that each character needed to go through in order to learn how to work together as a group and succeed in getting their superpowers,” states Graff. “Visual effects had to tie each of these locations together, so we did a lot of concept work and location scouting. The Escarpment provided this crazy, challenging place that has forests and crevices. The crevices are so outstanding that you can walk through them. It was also a great place for the characters to be challenged. They’re in maze and don’t know where to go. The shots would be great because we had these overheads from drones. Huge sets were built for the dust storm and the forest where the walls grew, which was repurposed as the alien planet where you see Jupiter. It was a collaboration between all departments in order to make that happen.”

There was a huge challenge for every single episode. “One of the biggest challenges was the Hilltop Fight because everybody at some point or another had a digital double,” remarks Graff. “The environment was CG. We had actors on wires who were generally stationary unless being lowered for a landing. When they’re moving in the air in one form or another, we’re touching whatever the actors are doing. Digital doubles were used for things that were not physically possible for a person to do. Some of the most beautiful work is on the Black Lotus ship. I’m proud of the work on Episodes 107 and 108 on the mysterious island, and the Hilltop Fight because it was an immense amount of work on all accounts for all parties involved. We ended up pulling that off. The lights on the alien wall are one of my absolute favorite things because we designed it and figured out what it should look like. It had to be choreographed. I came up with the idea that each symbol should be the same color of a character’s costume. It provided a beautiful, colorful, dazzling image at the end that was awe-inspiring.”

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