Agents of SHIELD: Here’s How VFX Team Created the Helicarrier

Agents of SHIELD came to an end a couple of weeks ago, and the series finale revealed where everyone in the team ended up. Mack (Henry Simmons) was still the director of SHIELD, now based on an epic helicarrier. Recently, had the chance to chat with Digital Domain's Mitch Drain. Digital Domain worked on a handful of key VFX shots for the show's final season, including the helicarrier. Here's what Drain had to say about bringing it to life.

"The helicarrier is something that [Digital Domain] had from some previous work they'd done," Drain explained. "It was a very, very heavy feature film style model. That's not to imply that for episodics you need anything less, but since it was such a big heavy model it was designed to do so many different things over the course of a feature film whereas we were doing the kind of signature end shot." He added, "We knew what we needed to keep and what we were able to kind of remove from the model just so we could use it in a more efficient fashion."

"What was tricky about that shot was that the beginning shows [Mack] saying goodbye to his fellow characters. You're not supposed to know that he's kind of in a holographic environment. He's actually on the ship but you don't know that at the time. So we designed and created the look for them kind of phasing out from an indoor environment to an outdoor environment. That was a plate that was shot by Mark [Kolpack], a green screen plate with a camera pull out. We had to kind of base the design of our camera to match what they had done with their practical camera but do a handoff to a digital version so we could land on the final composition as the director and Mark wanted."

"So once we had all of those assets put in place, the job came to populate the top of the helicarrier with people walking around and helicopters and vehicles, all kinds of set gack, I guess is the best word for it, that you can put on there just to make it look like a thriving, very busy environment."

He continued, "The library we had came in handy because Digital Domain has a pretty long history in digital humans and motion capture and things like that. So we were able to give them moving, interacting people on the deck of the helicarrier that they couldn't have gotten any other way with that level of quality."


"I guess I would say the hardest part of the whole thing was integrating the characters that were shot on green screen into the environment of the helicarrier. The compositors did a great job of doing everything they could to relight the characters to match the environment to the best advantage and creating all the shadows that would match for sun lighting and all that. At the end of the day, that was probably one of the most time consuming and largest shots that we did for the show."

The first six seasons of Agents of SHIELD are streaming on Netflix, and you can watch the series finale on Hulu.