Most blockbuster movies nowadays are filled to the brim with CGI effects, most of which look pretty realistic, but a lot of filmmaking teams will stake try to use practical effects whenever it's possible. Take Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, for example. That's a film with no shortage of computer-generated effects, from weaponized rings to dueling dragons, but the team putting it together used plenty of practical effects as well. Believe it or not, most of the film's opening battle sequence was actually practical.
Shang-Chi opens with the story of Wenwu and his Ten Rings taking power through different points in history. The biggest scene of that opening montage features a massive battle with a bunch of soldiers on horseback. There is quite a bit of CGI work in the sequence, but most of the work with the horses was actually practical.
Joe Farrell, Marvel Studios' Addition VFX Supervisor for Shang-Chi, recently spoke with ComicBook.com about the film's opening scene, explaining how it came together.
"I think our mantra is always to try and shoot as much as possible. And those particular opening shot sequences were shot on second unit, which we shot in Sydney, Australia," Farrell explained. "We had the amazing ability to work with these stunt team that were all these amazing riders. I think they were based out of Mongolia or something like that. And they came and joined us. And they basically did some pretty amazing stuff with these horses when those charge the final castle there."
"And of course, we're limited by what we can do as far as our budget and our costing department," he continued. "So I do recall we had probably about 20 or 30 practical of the guards outside the castle. And then we had, I believe, 12 horses racing. And I think the final shot that Chris and the team at Method Studios worked on was, I think a good sort of 50, 60 horses and a good couple of hundred soldiers there. So that's all the beauty of shooting as much as we could and the rest was all in visual effects."
It's easy to think that most of what you see in a Marvel movie is made with computers, which is often the case. But plenty of filmmakers still love shooting as many practical scenes as they can, using CGI to add layers on top of what has already been filmed.