Moon Knight VFX Boss Details Building Cairo From the Ground Up

As is becoming the norm in the digital age, real-world landscapes are being created completely digitally for blockbuster films. In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel Studios was forced to recreate the entirety of Macau due to COVID-related restrictions when it came to filming on the peninsula. The production outfit ran into similar hurdles while filming Moon Knight, which means the vast majority of Cairo was recreated entirely digitally with the use of visual effects.

Wētā FX visual effects supervisor Martin Hill says the New Zealand-based company ended up taking a 10km chunk of Cairo to make digitally to use throughout its shots on the Disney+ show.

"We're not going to build Cairo down to the individual every building perfectly accurately with every curtain and whatever," Hill tells us. "We know for the style of sequence that we had and the amount of time that we were spending in it, we knew we had to target [certain sections of the city], so we knew we had the Giza Complex, we did the marketplace, we knew we'd be flying over the city but also be in amongst some of the building as well. So, we essentially from photo reference went and built a library of 20 or 30 buildings that you could use from different angles and placed them into appropriate areas, and then added loads of dressing."

That means the Giza pyramid complex was also rebuilt digitally, which proved to be a struggle for the company. Surprising many, Hill says there's few high-quality reference shots of the Great Pyramid and surrounding buildings to use while making the area from the ground up with CGI.

"What we essentially did was found some reputable stock footage photography of the whole area, created from photogrammetry or a very high level detailed area of the whole Giza Complex," the artist adds. "t was a question of really taking [director Mohamed Diab's] notes apart because we wanted to make it colorful, so we looked at a lot of night time photography of Cairo, and if you look at, let's say, a European city as opposed to a North African one or an American city, the actual light colors are quite different, whether it's the tungsten streetlights or whatever, everything has a different feel to it. It was about really selecting all those colors and making sure that everything was vibrant but looked very much like Cairo and not Generic City."

Moon Knight is now streaming in its entirety on Disney+.

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