Go inside ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s’ Orgoscope

How Imageworks built the planetoid inside and out.

At one point in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the Guardians visit the headquarters of the OrgoCorp.

This planetoid appears to be made of bone and organic material. It is infiltrated by our heroes–with some scuffling in between–in order to access file records of Rocket.

Working with production visual effects supervisor Stephane Ceretti, Sony Pictures Imageworks handled the complex Orgoscope exterior and interior builds.

Here, Imageworks visual effects supervisor Theo Bialek breaks down the work for befores & afters.

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b&a: This is a pretty crazy environment, this organic Orgoscope. From a VFX point of view, what was the big thing you had to solve here?

Theo Bialek: The big challenge really was trying to render all these things with sub-surface, with such a large scope for the shots and dealing with render times. When you’re doing such large objects and trying to trace all those rays through it and hold on to that physicality of it, it can get really expensive.

Jessica Miglio © MARVEL 2021.

b&a: How did you approach the build?

Theo Bialek: We had an establishing shot where you start medium distance and then you fly through it. We needed it as a fully functioning model from far away and so the detail level was built at that scope, but then knowing that we flew by it in a few areas and that we approach it and land on a certain area, we made sure to detail out that area. Scope-wise, we couldn’t really build it all at such a detailed level. However, we did take advantage of procedural modeling in Houdini, which allows you to add infinite amounts of detail to it without really having to rely on a texture painter to paint everything.

b&a: What was filmed for those exterior scenes of the characters walking on the surface?

Theo Bialek: When they land on the surface and they’re walking, there was this rubbery material that let them sink into the surface a little. That was all replaced by us but it did give the characters something to look like they were interacting with rather than just a hard floor. If it had just been the characters with just a black floor, it wouldn’t give us as many clues as how the shadows would land and everything else like that. Plus they also sunk into it, which allowed us to mirror our CG surface in that same way.

b&a: They’re in those colorful space suits. Were they things the actors did wear or are they completely CG suits?

Theo Bialek: They were real. They did not have visors. So, every shot needed to be painstakingly matchmoved in order to add a CG visor in there. They will shoot without visors because you might get reflections that cover the actors’ faces, like a big area light, so it’s easier to shoot without them. The actors were also on wires for these shots, so we would be painting those out. Sometimes the wires might stretch the suit too much, so it became easier to replace an arm or the whole body in certain shots.

b&a: Once they get inside, they go into the main interior there where the battle ends up happening. What were the plates you received for this?

Theo Bialek: They had built a set and it had a lot of those solid pink plastic plans and some white hardscaping structures. We were able to use the ground in a few of the shots and some of those white structures, but the plants all had to be replaced. They had some actors walking around as crowd elements. We replaced many of these in CG. Again, though, it is really useful to have them because we see the right bounce of light off their faces. And there was a floor too, which was better than just a big blue floor because once more it gives you the right bounce light. However, that was challenging because there’s a lot of roto and a lot of paint, because you can’t really key it all.

Then there’s these walkways that are above them that just go off into the distance. Beyond that, we procedurally remodeled a cage lattice of bone structure that’s all around it. It was like looking in a forest–even though the forest goes on for miles, you only see so deep into it because everything overlaps.

b&a: When Drax and Mantis get into the battle, some of the orgosentries get lifted up into the air and then also seem to fly around. How was this done?

Theo Bialek: They were often shot as real elements and then we’d sometimes replace the CG suits or add completely CG sentries in the background.

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b&a: There’s some destruction inside, especially with all that yellow goo. Was that a fluid sim?

Theo Bialek: They had water in the fountains, but later on as we were building the asset, they said, ‘We’d like to have a more viscous material in there.’ And that also meant when, say, Drax gets up from being thrown into the goo, that he has something on his back. It had to be the CG goo, which was challenging to get a CG object to stick on what was practical cloth. We were able to use some tools in Nuke to help the track. It was a pretty good matchmove, but then to really stick it on there, they had to do some Nuke magic to get it to work.

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