June 7, 2011


Luma Pictures bring the Destroyer and Bifrost to Earth in Marvel Entertainment’s Thor
Visual effects juggernaut Luma Pictures hammered the pixelated iron leading up to the release of Marvel Entertainment's epic film Thor, for which they were tasked with bringing an essential antagonist in the film to life: the mighty Destroyer, an enchanted suit of armor created by and imbued with the powers of the gods.

© Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures; courtesy The Third Floor, Inc.

Additionally, Luma created the mystical storm—Bifrost—that delivers the gods to earth in the film.

Luma worked with Marvel's creative VFX team, infusing the aesthetic of the Destroyer from the original comic books, paired it with Legacy Effects' character sculpture, and crafted a believable and loyal rendition for the new film. Luma used Autodesk’s Maya and Pixologic’s ZBrush for the character modeling, and Luma's own in-house tool set for the rigging.

"We developed a complex character rig, which arranged the hundreds of rigid metal slats on the Destroyer's body, in a way that allowed for the character to achieve fluid and dynamic poses without sacrificing the rigid nature of the conceptual design," said Raphael A. Pimentel, animation supervisor at Luma.

This, combined with a barrage of custom shaders, gave the Destroyer its photoreal sheen.

"There is a profound amount of detail and energy that has been injected into the DNA of all the Marvel characters and their worlds, and it is with this measure of scrutiny that we pored over every element when creating the Destroyer," said Luma Pictures' VFX supervisor Vincent Cirelli.

In addition to animating the Destroyer, Luma was responsible for contributing to the design of attacks and battle sequences for the Destroyer and Thor. Luma used reference movies of rocket engines from JPL for the inspiration for the Destroyer's energy beam, in which the energy pools inside of the Destroyer as though he is charging up, before firing. The blast and internal energy was created using a mixture of high-velocity fluid simulations and dense particle renders driven by geometry.

During the battle on Midgard (Earth) between Thor and the Destroyer, Thor spins his hammer at incredible speeds, spawning a super tornado that lifts CG cars, debris, and, ultimately, the Destroyer into the air. Luma's in-house software programming staff designed tools for the VFX team to use to help visualize the incredible amounts of data needed for the super-cell generation. This allowed them to design the lighting and shot composition before rendering dense data sets.

Luma Pictures also created some of the film's most memorable environments and mystical special effects, including the opening nighttime scene in Midgard at the beginning of the film, when Thor is delivered from the heavens via the "Rainbow Bridge." The bridge is a transportation vortex that manifests as rays of light extending from a complex supernatural storm comprised of an aurora, thunderheads, and spiraling tornadoes, dubbed the "Bifrost" in the film.

The effect called for several layers of environmental effects on top of and interacting with one another at once. Using voxel rendering techniques and complex lighting rigs inside the funnels, Luma created a dynamic effect that delivers the film's heroes to Earth.

Luma Pictures is a leading provider of visual effects services to Hollywood with a reputation for artistic integrity, technical innovation, and efficient production. The company recently served as lead visual effects provider on The Green Hornet (Columbia Pictures), as well as the Academy Award-nominated True Grit (Paramount). Some of the studio's other recent credits include Battle: Los Angeles (Columbia Pictures), Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Fox 2000 Pictures), The Book of Eli (Warner Bros), and multiple Academy Award-winner No Country for Old Men (Paramount Vantage).

Upcoming projects includeX-Men: First Class (Twentieth Century FOX) and Captain America: The First Avenger (Marvel Entertainment).