Culver City — Tim Miller, co-founder of Blur Studio, was tapped by Marvel Studios to head up the three-minute prologue sequence that sets the stage for its upcoming sequel Thor: The Dark World. Miller created the sequence, which is almost entirely CG.
“Blur and Tim Miller have a distinct understanding of the Marvel Universe,” said producer Kevin Feige. “That alone, not to mention their storytelling and CG expertise, made the opening and end titles standout sequences in the film.”
Narrated by Anthony Hopkins (Odin), the prologue establishes context for the story of Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. The sequence is set in Svartalfheim, during an alignment of the Nine Realms 5000 years ago, when Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) battled Odin’s father, King Bor.
Once Marvel (www.marvel.com) and Miller finalized the prologue concept, Blur (www.blur.com) artists immediately started creating detailed previs to drive and direct the story, while simultaneously modeling assets. Having a previz roadmap took all of the guesswork out the live-action shoot and helped keep the project on schedule.
Miller along with Marvel’s executive producer Craig Kyle and editor Wyatt Smith oversaw the live-action shoot in London, which featured performances by Eccleston and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Algrim on greenscreen, while Blur’s VFX supervisor, Kevin Margo was supervising the CG battle sequences. The final sequence includes a total of 75 different shots, more than a third of which were completely CG, with digital humans seamlessly intercut with live-action performers. The prologue was completed in just 12 weeks, from concept to delivery.
“This project hit on so many sweet spots for Blur, combining live-action performance with photoreal CG action, actors and sets,” said Miller. “This was one of those projects where everything just lined up. Our vision for the prologue seemed to sync perfectly with what Marvel felt the film needed, and they were a great collaborator the whole way through.”
As the prologue production was progressing, Marvel also came to Blur to create the end credits for the film. Blur’s Jennifer Miller, who oversees the company’s design efforts, was the creative supervisor and art directed the sequence. The end titles highlight 35 different film vignettes reimagined as moving paintings in stereo 3D.
Tools employed by Blur included 3DS Max with Vray for modeling/lighting/shading/rendering; Fusion and Nuke were used for some supporting compositing work. In addition, they called on Sony Vegas for editing; PFTrack for camera tracking; Zbrush for character and environment sculpting; Mari and Photoshop for texturing; XSI for rigging and animation; Houdini for some FX simulations; and Shotgun for production tracking.