Images courtesy of The Third Floor

Visualizing "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"

The Third Floor share 8 epic facts

Last modification: 15 Sep, 2017
7 mins

What helps bring the epic heroes in Marvel’s "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" to the big screen? An epic effort in previs, postvis, and techvis from artists at The Third Floor.

James Baker, Previs and Postvis Supervisor, Addison Bath, Global Head of Pipeline and R&D, and Jordan Emerick, Previs Artist, take us through the team’s work.


Previs: The process of using computer animation and the virtual world to develop and test-bed ideas for cinematic stories in film, television, games, themed attractions, VR, and other areas.

Postvis (or "postvisualization"): Used to help fill in the blanks as shots are edited and developed through visual effects.  Artists work from live-action plates, replacing green/blue screens and adding CG characters or action to provide a temporary working version of the shot with all of its key components.

Techvis (or "technical previs"): In the computer, the requirements for filming a shot -- including positions, distances and speeds for cameras, types of cameras and lenses, camera or crane moves, stunt rig requirements, greenscreen requirements and so on -- are worked out virtually to help inform the physical shoot.


Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

1/ Most scenes were previs’d, from the Groot Dance opening credits to the Space Chase, Eclector Escape, and Final Battle.


James Baker: Our team created the previs, postvis, and techvis and it was amazing collaborating with director James Gunn, VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend, DP Henry Braham, Editors Craig Wood and Fred Raskin, Supervising Art Director Ramsey Avery and many others to help work out the action and how scenes could be shot. James embraces previs and postvis to inform the production shoot and the final vendor effects.

We techvis’d several sequences and used techvis throughout the film to help guide the shoot. One key use of this was in planning flying stunts, such as when Quill, played by Chris Pratt, flies around fighting the Abilisk. We needed to keep the actor in relatively the same area with the camera moving around him to recreate the action from the previs. Another instance was with big sweeping camera moves in the Final Battle. In particular cases, we were able to export the previs camera data so the Spydercam rigging crew could use it to help set up the shot.

Postvis also played a significant role in evolving shots or adding temporary versions of new ones as the cut progressed.


Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

2/ Once again, we had a Maya-based pipeline.


James: Having worked on the first Guardians, it was great to be back in this universe again, using Maya in our process along with Adobe After Effects and Premiere.  Maya was our tool for both animation and modeling.  We used Mudbox to do some texturing. Of course, Shotgun was invaluable in assigning work and keeping track of it.


Addison Bath: We have developed hundreds of custom tools around our pipeline to increase efficiency, automate workflows and add new functionality with Maya. We work regularly in Viewport 2.0 with a custom render tool that automatically builds a compositing project. This includes the transfer of metadata such as camera lensing information, camera height/speed/distance from the subject.

Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

3/ We used the library!


Addison: Via an in-house motion capture library, we can add realistic motion to a scene very quickly. This system, which helped speed the previs team’s work on this project, is based on the HIK tools in Maya. Custom motion capture is of course also done for many shows.

Above: visualized version  |  Below: final shot

Images copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

4/ Developing assets and looks began with concept art, storyboards, or descriptions from filmmakers


Jordan Emerick: Maya is one of the important tools we use to model and rig each type of asset – whether characters, environments or effects. We use it for asset-building, with texture support from Adobe Photoshop and Mudbox. Look-dev in Maya can start with basic polygonal models, built in fast-paced variations based on concept art or storyboards, to serve as a low-res representation of the ideal design for any given asset. We also use ZBrush to process high-resolution assets from the client, such as character and environment scans/lidar. Upon approval, we then flesh out initial ideas into fully polished assets with textures, lights, rigs, and often animation.

Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

5/ Viewport 2.0 helped kick visualizations up a notch.


James: On the first Guardians, we did previs for reshoots that were done for some parts of the film. For Vol. 2, we were on the show doing previs from the start. Advancements in Viewport 2.0 released in between the two movies made it easier to work with shadows and "dial in" the look of the previs. We were also very familiar with the characters by that time, which helped in creating previs character animation of Rocket and Groot.

Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

6/ Whatever you do, do not press this button...


James: Working at a speed that is typical of The Third Floor’s pace, we were turning around many shots per day, never pressing the panic button (laughs). Revisions depended on the sequence. Some had very few, like ‘North by Northwest’ which features Nebula and Gamora’s fight. Others, like 'Space Chase' or the opening titles with Baby Groot dancing, took many months. James Gunn is particular in what he wants, which is great. He really does have the whole film in his head. The turnaround in postvis was exceptionally fast; a lot of times James and the editors would also want to see a few variations of a shot to zone in on the best one.

Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

7/ Baby Groot is cute – and so much fun to animate in previs.


James: While our most difficult scene to visualize was the Baby Groot opening credits sequence, it was also one of the most enjoyable. One of our artists, Steve Lo, was the lead on that and did an incredible job. It’s quite difficult to work on shots that are long single takes as any changes have a domino effect. We started out by blocking the animation for Baby Groot with the other Guardians fighting in the background. As our work progressed, we finessed the previs across most of the scene but kept Groot in what we called our "Gingerbread Groot" rig rather than our usual Groot rig so we could focus more on representing the overall choreography. The previs was done using Maya, with effects and compositing in Adobe After Effects. We used Adobe Premiere to edit our previs.

Visualizing scenes with Baby Groot as well as Rocket provided a unique opportunity to contribute moments and character details that made it into the final film.

Image copyright Marvel 2017 and courtesy of The Third Floor, Inc.

8/ Two-time galaxy saving was a blast!


James: Representing James' vision and helping to bring that to the screen for a second time really pushed us here at The Third Floor. It was hard work, but so rewarding to see the efforts pay off in the final film. James was very complimentary, and we're all very proud of what everyone accomplished!

We’re so stoked that Maya, Mudbox, and Shotgun come through the way they do for The Third Floor that we’re doing our own version of the Baby Groot happy dance over here!

As always, thanks for sharing your story with us, The Third Floor.

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1 Comment
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| 2 years ago
Nice interview!
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