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Production Design + Visual Effects: Sue Chan on "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"

Map to the Hidden Village Sequence

Wen Wu's compound was conceived of as a reflection of his life trajectory from 1000 years hence to the present day. When his true love Li entered his life, we wanted to bring her story into the architecture and provide a bridge to the story to come, by designing and building a classic Dongyang-style wood carving depicting the key elements of her beloved home: Ta Lo Village.

We also knew that ultimately there would need to be a magical VFX constructed effect to lead our characters to the village. Because we were leaning heavily on the foundational Chinese concept of harmony within the 5 elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood) as a design element in Ta La village, we wanted to use this idea to motivate the visual effect that unlocks the key to the village.

All of these elements are present in the scene when Xialing and Shang's pendants (earth and metal) are placed into the carved dragon's (wood) eyes with their mother's ancestral altar lit by candles (fire) in the background. The only element missing is water, which is magically manifested and conjured into the map that leads our heroes, and villain, to the village.

Developing this scene with VFX supervisor Christ Townsend and his team was a lot of fun and the product of many conversations about what made sense in the context of our characters and story. Chris, who has done many Marvel films, didn't want to do the usual "hologram" map or lean back into other oft used fallback effects. Knowing that our village was defined by water and nature, we wanted to find a cool way to bring this into the storytelling. I worked with Ulrich Zeidler, one of our concept artists, to narrate how the water effect could erupt from the mural and settle onto the ground to create a god's eye map through the bamboo forest which we established early in the movie.

I was really happy with how Chris and his team took our sketch of an idea and brought it to an uncanny and fun level. It was also gratifying that Destin and our writers took the care to enfold all of these elements into the storytelling beats from start to finish.

Derrick Pendleton, our 3D ZBrush sculptor in Los Angeles, developed the mural digitally, then printed it on his 3D printer. We then integrated his scale maquette into a paper model made by my Sydney model maker Edwardo De Macedo. Our Sydney construction team then started 3D printing in full scale the elements of the mural which we assembled and then augmented with hand carved foam elements from our sculpting team. Scenic paint came in next to give the mural it's beautiful finish in the final result. Our prop concept team designed the Dragon's Eye Pendants and prop makers created them. Everything was built and finished in-house on our own equipment.

During filming we covered the floor with mirrored plexi-glass to shoot plates that later were used by VFX to integrate with the in-camera live scenes shot with our actors.

I am so proud of the fact that so much of this sequence was built practically and I think that Bill Pope, our cinematographer, lit and shot it really nicely to integrate with the full CG water effects that were to come.

Throughout Shang-Chi, Chris Townsend and his team worked very closely with our Art Department to create a CG world that was motivated by both what we developed in the concept art and what we built practically.


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