Shang-Chi VFX Teams Had to Build Macau Digitally Because of COVID Shutdowns

Like a few other projects under the Marvel Studios umbrella, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was temporarily halted as the world began to shut down in early 2020 as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Because of that, the production had to take certain liberties to make sure the film was out on time. That includes building Macau from the ground up using computer-generated imagery despite the region being an actual, real-life metropolitan area.

Due to the various travel restrictions that quickly began to form, Marvel Studios and the team at RodeoFX put their heads together on what to do. Under normal circumstances, the film's second unit would travel to Macau and film blank plates the studio's visual effects vendors would then alter for the movie. Since time was of the essence, Ara Khanikian and his team at Rodeo opted to go the "from-scratch" route.

Luckily for the team, the second unit had shot some scouting footage by the time travel shutdowns were in place they were able to reference. Between that and extensive use of Google Maps, Khanikian and his team were able to perfectly recreate a city usually home to 650,000-some residents.

The team started at the primary skyscraper, a fictional building, used in the movie. From there, RodeoFX fleshed out the city. Those buildings closest to the skyscraper got a premium treatment, with accurate modeling, textures, and the works because those were the buildings that'd actually make the cut in the film. The further you got out from the building, the less detailed the building models became.

"We wanted to avoid building every single building accurately, because that would have been just insane in terms of the amount of work," Khanikian tells ."So we were looking at it going, 'Okay, well, you know what, behind our hero skyscraper is an area that looks a lot like the slums,' so we kind of analyze how they look and they have a repeating pattern the way that they're built and then we would build a little city block of slums and then just duplicate them with a lot of variation of height and textures and this and that."

Regardless, the team always wanted to be as accurate as possible, no matter the cost.

"We wanted it to make sure that it stands on its own, no matter what the shot is. So that in all of these shots, we can just plug and play Macau and just render it out with the proper camera and then concentrate on just matching the lighting with the scaffolding, the building, the skyscraper, all of that, dialing that work in terms of lighting and CG and leaving Macau, just letting it be, basically, and only fine tune it if we needed to in a shot," he adds.

Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and produced by Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, with Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, and Charles Newirth serving as executive producers. David Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham wrote the screenplay for the film, which is now in theaters.

What did you think of Shang-Chi's MCU debut? Let us know your thoughts either in the comments section or by hitting our writer @AdamBarnhardt up on Twitter to chat all things MCU!