black adam it’s a visually wild movie, even beyond the titular powerhouse and his array of abilities. It’s a movie with demonic forces of nature, a whole team of colorful superheroes with different abilities and costume designs, and even an army of the dead. To make this all work, a team of VFX artists from around the world came together to bring DC’s massive characters to life, with VFX companies like Digital Domain helping to visualize magical forces usually only seen in movies. comic page.
During an interview with CBR, black adam Visual Effects Supervisor Nikos Kalaitzidis and Digital Effects Supervisor Greg Teegarden discussed juggling Black Adam’s brutal side with a comedic twist, the process of replicating specific panels from the original comics, working with special effects teams from all over the world to find new uses for classic superpowers, and what surprised them most about working on the film.
CBR: The difference in the look of the JSA compared to Black Adam’s monochrome look and blunt use of powers is a really fun visual way to differentiate the two forces. It is a force of nature. Was it something the team was aware of during production?
Nikos Kalaitzidis: When we were on set, we had a couple of sequences where Black Adam goes through every room in an apartment because, for some reason, he doesn’t want to use a door. The filmmakers explained it to us, when he arrives, let’s make sure he’s clean and pristine, and everything comes rolling like Teflon. That’s how it was. he was alone that super.
On the other hand, you know, to play what you said before, it had no problem turning off. One of the first sequences we did, where we revealed Black Adam in today’s modern world, annihilate these mercenaries. It was the first time we got a taste of what Black Adam was all about. We try to make it dark. He’s in a dark place, which is also a metaphor for how dark it was to annihilate all these mercenaries without any regret or hesitation.
One of the things about Black Adam in the movie is that he has to be a little scary, he’s a guy who can melt people with lightning, but he also has to be the hero of the movie. From a visual standpoint, how did you and the rest of the team approach that balancing act?
Greg Teegarden: In the sequence where it’s first revealed, he’s going crazy with those mercenaries, and he’s taking them out one after the other, I mean, one guy, he picks them up by their feet and slams their head into the ground and then throws them off. Even in an RPG. But there is also a part there where he recognizes Adriana. He recognizes her necklace around her neck and uses her powers to protect her. It’s like he could use her powers for better or worse.
You immediately get the feeling that he has a connection to her. We’re not quite sure what it is at first. But that’s where a bit of his humanity kicks in. In that sense, he’s playing both characters. He’s playing a little bit of the character he’s going to become at the end of the movie, but only a little bit. Most of it is focused on removing these guys because they’re clearly the bad guys, and we’re rooting for him to remove these guys.
Fortunately, he’s fighting some pretty bad guys throughout the entire movie.
Kalaitzidis: I was just throwing them from left to right! Greg and I even had a drinking game at the end of the movie with the rest of our performers. Every time he pitches someone, we have to take a shot of tequila or something. He didn’t think twice before throwing someone. Sure enough, a lot of that is still in the movie.
It’s so darkly funny to see him throw people around like that.
Kalaitzidis: Yeah, they definitely had a dollop of humor attached to the movie. It’s comic relief. To tell you the truth, they even had more sequences that had that kind of comic relief, but at the end of the day, a lot of it was cut from the movie.
You have to play with Black Adam and the different appearances, designs and powers of the rest of the Justice Society. What was it like jumping into that sandbox?
Kalaitzidis: [The film’s director, Jaume Collet-Serra] it really stayed true to a lot of the comics and the styles they have for each of those characters. And then we add a little bit more to that. For example, when Atom-Smasher gets bigger or smaller, when his powers activate, the lines of his costume animate in the texture to give us a bit of that sense of technology inside the suit that activates when grow or shrink. .
Come up with those ideas, or work with the filmmakers, or if someone else did some other power for a different character, they would share it with us and we would share it with them. It really was a union of minds within everyone who has been working on this film. Not just what we did at Digital Domain, but what others would do as well – a big thank you to WETA and Scanline who came up with ideas, then shared our ideas with them and brainstormed around the world with everyone in everything. these characters, which was pretty impressive. Look at Hawkman. He has this nine foot wingspan, right? He had to fight Black Adam in this small bedroom. When we filmed him on set, we even tried to give him some wings so that he would look like he has something there. We would figure out how to actually compress those wings and what to do with those wings.
It not only came out and was compressed, but we also used it as a weapon: we cut furniture and threw it. Not only is it meant for flying, but it’s also meant for an attack, and he used it as a shield. What if he turns around too quickly and takes cover? Or if it’s running into a wall, what if it just locks into the wings? There were a lot of ideas and brainstorms that we did with each other, and then we shared them with the filmmakers.
They came up with different ideas and then fed us, and it was really a conglomeration of brainstorming at its most saturated and colorful. The creativity that we had to investigate what were the powers of each of the JSA characters, was done more or less after filming. The good thing about filming is that we were working on the characters. We would show it to Jaume on the set.
Were there specific moments where the team was specifically drawing from sequences from the original comics, or was it more important to focus on Jaume’s vision for the film?
Kalaitzidis: There were two specific shots. One was a final scene where Black Adam sits on the throne. There was a comic book image of Black Adam doing the same thing. You could see how they really tried to align with that iconic comic book design. Another is that on set, we had an LED set where Black Adam takes these mercenaries and takes them to the clouds. It was these storm clouds with lightning everywhere, and it was beautiful. There was one comic in particular that the filmmakers actually showed me on set, saying this is like straight out of the comics. Check it out. It was great because it gave us inspiration to keep going.
What would you say surprised you the most about the production of black adam?
Teegarden: I think the most pleasant surprise was, once we figured out what the visual language was for our sequences, how relatively easy it was to take these shots, take them home with us. The mercenary fight, we really weren’t quite sure what this chamber was supposed to look like. It wasn’t until Nikos came back from filming even though we were building everything ahead of time. We had these LED walls that we had to place the characters on; it looked very different from how the actual set piece looked… but once we got the plates back, it seems, what’s the mood, it was very smooth.
It was artistically satisfying to finish the sequence because it became a point where the whole team knew exactly what we were supposed to do. We were taking the shots. Once we got that momentum, that carried over to Adriana’s apartment with the fight with Hawkman and Black Adam, and the same with the sequence of them going up to the clouds. Originally we weren’t quite sure what it was supposed to look like.
Once we got a couple of outlets, they just kept rolling. It wasn’t an experience that I’m used to in these types of movies because there are usually a lot of shots or environments that are these giant undertakings for really not a lot of screen time or number of shots. We were lucky to have a lot of these sequences where, once we got the look together, it was like, okay, now we have a bunch of new things we have to do, we can make them all look great.