VFX a Global Affair for 'Men in Black: International'
July 18, 2019

VFX a Global Affair for 'Men in Black: International'

Columbia Pictures’ Men in Black: International continues the original franchise’s inventive tone, pairing new recruit Agent M (Tessa Thompson) with veteran Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Director F. Gary Gray blends comedy, sci-fi and adventure as the duo encounter eye-popping aliens and exotic locales to uncover a mole in the Men in Black organization. 

To help realize the film’s extensive extraterrestrial cast, supercharged firepower and large-scale reveals, Production VFX Supervisors Jerome Chen and Daniel Kramer enlisted several VFX studios, including Method Studios, which assembled three teams of artists around the world to handle the work. Led by Method VFX Supervisors Glenn Melenhorst, Seth Hill and Hamish Schumacher, the teams worked on standalone sequences and also collaborated with each other on shared shots using Method’s integrated global pipeline.

The handiwork of Melenhorst’s team includes scenes with Pawny, the creation of feather-headed thug Luca and Riza’s third arm. He explained, “Building and animating Luca was both a technical and artistic challenge. We extracted and matched the facial performance from the actor, then made sure those subtleties read correctly on the alien’s CG face. Also, remapping the actor’s clothing onto a larger body type required finesse. We opted for a 2D projection approach, occasionally doing full CG replacement of his clothing.” 

Additionally, Melenhorst’s team was responsible for the powerful black hole gun and the resulting Grand Canyon-esque crater that it leaves in the Sahara when fired.

Hill’s team focused on CG character work, including scenes with beard-like being Bassam, and on the hyperloop transportation system. “Visualizing mass transit in the MIB universe was really interesting, and it was a lot of fun to work on so many different creatures in scenes at once,” Hill noted. “We tried to maintain as much of the actors’ on set performances and pull through subtle nuances to their CG alien visages. Bassam is probably the most unique creature that we worked on. His design is like a hammerhead shark on this long slinky body with three heads. It evokes Rick Baker’s MIB designs and it was cool to tap into that creature history. Nailing the look required precisely sculpted blend shape sorcery and tricky rigging.”

The bulk of work handled by Schumacher’s team was set in Marrakech, where Agents M and H ride a hoverbike, and the twins take on different forms. “We did a full roto and CG replacement for the hoverbike to give it the proper buoyancy, and often replaced much of the practical set to get the appropriate interaction with the nebula form of the twins. They have this distinct orange energy that undulates like lava, which we used as a connective thread to the scene where they suck the lifeforce out of the waiter,” said Schumacher. His team was also responsible for creating Frank, the fan-favorite pug featured in the original trilogy. “It was a thrill to work on Frank, and fortunately we have a proven methodology for getting animals to speak believably so we could focus our efforts on fine tuning the performance,” Schumacher concluded.