WandaVision is arguably the most original property to come out of the MCU yet. The sitcom-inspired Disney+ series put two of the most powerful Avengers into a suburban family lifestyle.
As the era-spanning comedy placed Wanda and Vision into multiple time periods from the 1950s through to the 2000s in the fictional town of Westview, New Jersey. While parts of the show are shot on practical sets, CGI and VFX played a key role in the series, as would be expected for a big-budget Marvel production.
However, the establishing shots of the town were digitally created by the design team at Rodeo FX. For example, during Jimmy and Monica's first discussion outside the town, the shots behind the pair were completely artificial.
Overall, the 350 shots of WandaVision developed by Rodeo FX were worked on by over 340 VFX artists. The award-winning company's VFX supervisor Julien Hery has recently commented on the process of creating Marvel's Disney+ debut, including the difficulties of perfecting Westview.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF DESIGNING A SUB-URBAN TOWN
In an interview with Comicbook.com, Julien Hery, who worked on WandaVision visual effects as the supervisor of Rodeo FX, outlined the process of creating the town of Westview for the series. Hery described the job as “very interesting,” since it's a “totally different area of visual effects” to what they typically work on for big-budget productions:
“That's very interesting, because it's totally different area of visual effects, as you were saying, building those kinds of environments.”
The filmmaker explained that creating Westview was much more difficult than designing the typical fictional looks of superheroes, their powers, and the surrounding destruction. Since “everybody knows how towns work,” the Rodeo team had to spend a lot of time to ensure every set piece looks believable, down to the “tiny details” that make it real.
“Whereas a town, everybody knows how towns work. We spent a lot of time making it right. There's a lot of tiny details that you won't spot right away but that makes it real, like traffic lights and trash cans.”
The VFX supervisor went on to explain that it is “really tricky to do something everybody is super used to see” with the “biggest challenge” being to build a CGI face. He went on to explain they built the digital Westview with a “real town layout in mind” so you can “film it from every other direction” and it “should work”:
“I found that very often it's really tricky to do something everybody is super used to see. Like, let's say the biggest challenge of visual effects would be maybe building a real CG face of a human. It's super tricky because humans are trying to detect a real one as opposed to something not living. It's a bit the same thing with a town. It was definitely very interesting and very challenging. You have to build it the real way, with a real town layout in mind. It has to work as a real town, and then you can film it from every other direction and it should work.”
NOT THE ANSWER MOST WOULD EXPECT
It's always interesting to hear studios describe how their biggest productions are made after fans have finally had the opportunity to experience the whole series. Most would expect the huge magical effects of WandaVision would be the toughest to design, but it makes a lot of sense that creating an entire digital town would be a much harder task.
Digitally creating things people are used to seeing on a daily basis realistically, is one of the hardest tasks in VFX. Productions in the Star Wars universe have been criticized in the past for unrealistic-looking attempts to digitally de-age older actors such as Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian and Princess Leia in Rogue One.
As computing technology continues to improve, the potential continues to increase for studios to digitally create effects in a more realistic way, with much less effort. As Marvel continues to increase their output with several series and movies a year, the number of effects being produced by their VFX teams is substantially higher than ever.
While WandaVision has come to an end, the MCU continues to be explored on Disney+ in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, streaming now on Disney+.