Black Panther derives superhero strength and power from a special herb he ingests and from a vibranium-powered suit. At the beginning of Black Panther, T’Challa wears his Captain America: Civil War suit. Then, his genius sister Shuri gives him a new suit.
“The suit is contained within his necklace,” says Geoffrey Baumann, overall visual effects supervisor. “It comes tumbling out to cover his body. Before it forms, a subdermal glow shoots down over the skin like tribal tattoos. On Black Panther, it’s purple. On Killmonger, it’s orange.”
We first see the suit in Shuri’s lab, a set extended by Method Studios artists who developed the suit’s formation.
“The suit is formed from little triangles,” says Todd Perry, associate visual effects supervisor at Method. “Each triangle folds out from the previous one and follows a design pattern of the suit itself.”
When T’Challa and Killmonger are suited up, the suit is CG.
“If they’re fully in the suit, they are fully digital characters,” Perry says. “If they retract the mask, we retain the plate and matchmove the digital suit from the head down to the photography and finesse the connection point so the head doesn’t slide around. I think people will miss the fact that anytime they see these guys in suits, the suit is a CG replacement.”
To create the suits, the crew did multiple photogrammetry sessions using an array of 100-plus SLR cameras that fired simultaneously. The photogrammetry captured both actors and their stunt doubles wearing suits in various damaged states. Method artists created models from the photogrammetry. To rig the models, they put the actors and stunt actors through a range of motions while filming with three cameras. The rigging department then devised systems with deformation correctives for animators based on rotoscoped performances. Lastly, modelers modified the photogrammetry models to give the characters superhuman physiques, which resulted in using the CG replacement suits throughout the film. Method shared models and textures with Luma for shots of Black Panther in the Busan chase and with Double Negative for shots of both characters in the final battle. For shots of Black Panther in the nighttime chase through Busan’s streets, Luma artists made the suit shinier to reflect the neon lights.
Anytime something hits Black Panther’s suit, the vibranium technology collects and uses that energy. Luma artists worked with Marvel to create that look and shared the design with the other studios.
“We flattened the suit like laying out clothing on a bed, converted the texture set to a set of curves, and the curves became goal paths for the simulation,” says Brendan Seals, Luma visual effects supervisor. “Over the course of a sequence, it was additive as the suit amassed more energy; the number of uv files was in the hundreds. We triggered events using Houdini to send particle simulations through the glyphs, characters, and lines in the suit. Any time animation triggered a bullet hit, it would call on these particle simulations.”