Eternals quickly became the MCU's most divisive film to date. Some fans will confidently place it in their top five movies of the franchise, while others believe it to be near the bottom. However, one aspect of the film that every viewer can agree on is how beautifully made it was. Whether it be a wide shot of the surrounding environment or a closeup rich with detail, the cinematography and VFX are viewed as some of the best of the MCU.
When the first trailer for Eternals was released, fans immediately knew that it would be a must-see spectacle on the big screen. When the film was finally released and the two-and-a-half-hour feature arrived in theaters, the visual aspect did not disappoint. Disney has even begun its campaign for Eternals to be recognized at the Oscars, with two of the categories being for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.
When viewers finally see the final product on-screen, many don't know just how much work and effort goes into making the effects look as real and eye-catching as possible. For Eternals, the VFX crew even took inspiration from another MCU film when constructing one of their more detailed scenes.
Ant-Man and the Wasp's Influence on Eternals
In an interview with Befores & Afters, Scanline VFX visual effects supervisor Jelmer Boskma talked about his experience working on Eternals, and how he took inspiration from previous work he and his team did for Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Boskma was asked about the challenges they faced when bringing certain designs to life, such as the World Forge and the wall of memories. He stated that "it was a pretty standard build," and that they ended up choosing to make it look like crystal. Boskma then explained the process of how the team went about making it:
"It was a pretty standard build, I would say. The trick there was finding the language of the materials first and foremost. Asking questions like, ‘How close can we get this to real world references?’ We settled on crystal and this very translucent, I’d say, coral, slightly denser crystal, perhaps. We would build the whole thing in Maya, do the sculpt pass in Zbrush, and then start putting shot cameras in and say, ‘Okay, where do we need to think about extra detail?’"
The visual effects supervisor then went on to explain in detail how they got "the right look" for the wall of memories, saying that there were "hundreds of thousands, if not millions" of crystals that made up the wall. The challenge then came with how the VFX team would render so many objects to make them look authentic:
"It turned out that to get the right look, we ended up scattering hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of individual crystals in all these little cubby holes in that wall. Those were individual objects. Then, well, they’re crystals. They’re pretty damn translucent. How on earth are we going to render millions of crystals?"
Boskma then talked about how working on Ant-Man and the Wasp helped, because of a similar scene where they had to render in a crystal chandelier. According to him, detail is one of the most important aspects of VFX, and when it came to the wall of memories, the "learned a lot" from Ant-Man and the Wasp:
"We had done something similar for that, not to that extent, but it was actually in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The restaurant fight scene in that movie had a crystal chandelier, which ended up being destroyed. We had some close-up shots of Wasp flying through that. We had all these little crystal beads. So there we had to find ways to actually physically get it to render, because at a certain point, there’s too many rays to trace. There’s a limit to that, but we learned a lot from that, and that helped in how to effectively push that through and also build to camera really, because you can put the detail where it’s needed."
Learning from Experience
Scanline VFX has worked on more than half-a-dozen MCU films and is credited on other projects such as Game of Thrones and Joker. When working in any field, more experience usually means a better outcome. Scanline has had the opportunity to work on so many big-name projects that may have presented them with challenges, but have also allowed them to learn what works for the future.
In this case, one of Ant-Man and the Wasp's most interesting scenes helped the VFX team figure out what they needed to do in order to make their idea come to life and be successful. When looking at Eternals, the wall of memories is breathtaking and looks as realistic as almost any other shot in the entire film.
Scanline will more than likely have the opportunity to work on many more MCU projects in the future. With so many theatrical films and Disney+ shows coming up in Phase 4, it is safe to assume that they will be faced with more challenges. However, it is a relief to know that the company's teams uses their prior experiences and work on previous films to make their work the best it can be.