• Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s VFX Supervisor Stephane Ceretti discusses the evolution of collaborating with James Gunn and how the director has grown in his filmmaking style.
  • Ceretti reveals the visual evolution of characters like Groot, explaining how the character has changed from the first film to the third installment.
  • Ceretti talks about the process of bringing Rocket and other characters to life, emphasizing the importance of capturing emotional depth and creating impactful scenes.

While Peter Quill mourns the loss of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, a threat from Rocket’s past puts the Guardians’ new life on Knowhere in danger. When Rocket’s life is threatened, Peter and the other Guardians will have to work together to take on their most dangerous enemy yet. If the Guardians fail, it won’t just be Rocket’s life that is in danger, but the entire galaxy.

James Gunn returns as the first creator to write and direct all three installments of his MCU trilogy with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3., which lends itself to a continuity that reverberates through the art departments as well. Reprising their roles are MCU veterans Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Sean Gunn, and Maria Bakalova. Joining the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are Chukwudi Iwuji and Will Poulter as the High Evolutionary and Adam Warlock respectively.

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Ending Explained (What Happens, What’s Next & What It Means)

Screen Rant spoke with VFX supervisor Stephane Ceretti about his latest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. He discussed returning to the Guardians franchise and how Gunn has grown as a director. Ceretti also shared details about bringing Rocket and his friends to life as well as what happened to the High Evolutionary. Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and the movie covered here would not exist without the labor of the writers and actors in both unions.

VFX Supervisor Stephane Ceretti Talks Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Rocket, Lylla, Teefs, and Floor in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Screen Rant: You worked on the first Guardians too, right? What was that evolution like of collaborating with James Gunn from the first one to now the third?

Stephane Ceretti: It was great. We had a good time on the first one. I’m usually trying to figure out what that was at the time and then sadly, I couldn’t do the second one. I was doing Doctor Strange at the time. And then James invited me to come back on the third one, that was initially in 2018 and then we pushed it a bit, as everybody knows. We started back in 2021 and we were doing also the Christmas Special. It was great to come back with a lot of people that had worked on the previous films, and obviously actors and everybody, family reunited.

But it was also interesting to see because I had not worked with James for a little while and he had done a few things in between. And how as a filmmaker he had evolved, and he was already really good on the first one, really prepared and really deep into his characters, his story, and everything. But he definitely had as a journey throughout his career and then now he was shooting even faster. Even a different style, very active camera. That was really interesting to see the evolution actually. But still the same very well prepared very, very good director that has a clear vision of what he wants to get on the screen for sure.

Can you also talk to me a little bit about the evolution visually of the characters from the first one to the third one? Because some of them look so different, like Groot.

Stephane Ceretti: They do. I mean, Groot is actually not even the same Groot. As you know, the first Groot died in the first film and that little twig that we saw at the end of the first film became a little Baby Groot. That everybody loved it the second one and now is that big butchy football player that James described to us. It’s like, he’s a happy guy. We’ve seen him being a teenager that was a little annoying, but now he’s become that sweet young adults kind of guy that’s really good. And that actually has learned to work really well with Peter Quill, and they have their tactics and their shorthand between the two of them to understand what’s going on. And they have some little surprises for us in the film. It was cool.

It’s very different. When I saw the first drawing that we got from our people in the viz lab that James asked them to do, I was like, “Oh, that’s very different. I didn’t imagine that it would grow so butch in that little time.” But he said, “Yeah, no, but that’s cool. Heou can do this and then also, he’s gonna dance at the end and all that stuff it’s gonna be fun.” And so we did kind of a hybrid coming from the old Groot that had all these kind of, he looks really old. In the first film. The bark was a little old and everything and now he’s younger, but we still kind of retain some of the stuff we had done in the first film that were lost a little bit in the Baby Groot.

Because the Baby Groot was more, it could deform its face a little bit more. He had a skin that was a little bit more flexible. But here, we wanted to bring back some of the things we had done in the first film with his face. We had these kind of plates that were kind of sliding on top of each other to bring back some of the woody feel that we had in the first film. So it’s kind of an in between, technologically between the Baby Groot, or at least the teenager Groot and the old Groot that we had seen before.

And also we had to make him really big at the end. Alpha Groot as James was calling him. I remember James drawing for me a drawing of that big burly Groot. I was like, “Okay, that’s that’s cool.” And then we had to build it as well, which was fun. Now it’s so big and it’s just I don’t know how you deal with because we’ve always had trouble dealing with all the different sizes in these films. Between a small rocket that’s like three feet tall and then Groot that was so big, but like now it’s even more. So framing these guys is a little bit of a challenge.

Kaiju Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Speaking of Rocket, one of my favorite storylines in Guardians 3 was Rocket’s journey. Can you talk about the process of bringing Rocket and the other characters like Lila and Teefs to life?

Stephane Ceretti: Well, it’s the core of the movie. It’s the core of the story. It’s the core of the the entire trilogy in some ways. So it was very important that we get that right. James had already done some little scribbles of what the characters should look like. And the guys did a great job at creating those characters from the designs that James gave to them. We worked with a company that’s called Framestore Visual Effects that is in London, in Montreal, and everywhere, so many places in the world. But the team that took care of these animals was in London, which was the original team that we’ve worked with on the first film, as well. Who created Rocket on the first film.

So obviously, they had new additions, but it was that company and with these people. So they understood the character so well. And that’s important for us in terms of casting, the visual effects vendors, people that understand the character, that have worked with James, that have worked with me, and that we can work together very well. So we design these characters. In order to shoot the scenes we actually did some sort of a virtual production, I would say. There’s no motion capture in the film. It’s all hand animated, but we put the actors on this on a little set that was oversized because the actors obviously are bigger than an otter. We had Sean Gunn who always does Rocket for us on set and we had Linda Cardellini that was doing Lylla, Asim [Chaudhry] that was playing Teefs and Mikaela Hoover was playing Floor. So we put them into into that middle volume.

We filmed them for the first few days of the film. We filmed all the scenes with them in that little capture volume, but what we wanted to capture was not the animation of the actors. We would use the acting as a reference for the animators. But what James wanted to capture was the camera moves, because, as I said earlier, he has evolved in his way of shooting his films. One of the things that has changed the way he’s filming was the camera. And so Henry Braham our DP, he’s also the camera operator. And we shot the entire scenes like all the scenes of the first 2 days was the actors acting out everything they had to do. And we shot that and we capture the camera moves. And that gave us a full template of these entire scenes that were like about 15 minutes in film in the first 3 days of the film.

And they are so important as the core of the film. And all of that was edited really quickly by Fred Raskin, our editor, and then given to Framestore, so that they could start building the sequence, put the animals in there, work on the animation, reference the actors. We literally use all the acting from these first 2 days, except for Shawn for a rocket because we do ADR later with Bradley Cooper. But even that we based everything off of these two first days of shooting in that capture volume, but just for the camera move and the reference from the animators. And then we animated every single of that. That was really great, because we’ve got so much footage and good material from that. That it’s the template for the scenes and it took us a year to do it in post production.

That’s how long it took because there were so much emotion. We had to build all the CG characters with all the range of emotion we’d need., They’re laughing, they’re crying, they’re dying, they’re shouting in pain. All that stuff and Rocket evolves, Rocket grows. So we have to build all these different versions of Rocket throughout this evolution. So that was a huge amount of work. The entire environment around them was scanned from the set, but it was all CG around. So all these scenes are full CG. We shot references of the lighting from our DP Henry and everything, but it was all CG. That was the best way to go about it, but it was really, really intense and very complicated. But it was worth the effort, because that’s the story of the film. If that didn’t work. I don’t think the film would work. So we had that pressure on us to make it work and make it very impactful on an emotional level.

You definitely did. Gut punch with all of their scenes. It was so good!

Stephane Ceretti: That was the idea. It was emotional. I mean, even when we’re reviewing basic blocking animation, the more we’re going through it, we had moments in the, in our review room in production, where we were literally kind of crying. Like the first time we saw the renders and Lylla getting… we were like, “Oh my god. This is so sad.” It was a very emotional process.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 Rocket and Lylla

Can you also talk to me about the Holiday Special? Because that is such a fun, silly, breath of fresh air for you guys. Didn’t you do that kind of simultaneously?

Stephane Ceretti: We did it at the same time. It was actually really fun. I mean, fun, but a lot of work. On our side, we had more than 3000 visual effects shots to do on the film itself and we had 560 visual effects shots to do on the Holiday Special at the same time. So it was a lot of work, but we were very well organized and we had set up the vendors so that they could achieve this concurrently and without too much pressure.

I will say it was a good test ground for us on a lot of things. For example, Cosmo, was in the Christmas Special, and it gave us extra time to kind of actually get her sorted out before we really went to her for the film. So that was really good, but in terms of shooting the Special that was fun. Because we were shooting main principal photography and then there was the special Christmas Special days. All these days were very kind of funny.

It was like, we’re seeing the main filming and then “Oh, there’s a Christmas Special day! Cool! We’re gonna have fun on this day.” And we were like that, because the story is so crazy, ut it was was good. It was good. James on the Special was a little bit more fluid even. He’s go, “Oh, the cameras gonna go there. And then we’re gonna do this.” It was a little bit more organic on the on the Special, but in a good way. It was silly, a little bit, which was great. When we were doing one or two days of very sad story, and then suddenly we’re going into special was like, “Oh, cool!”

I love that! Are there any details from either the Holiday Special or Guardians 3 that fans may have missed, but was your favorite moment?

Stephane Ceretti: Oh, I don’t know. People now they analyze so much stuff on it. They go literally frame by frame. And it’s very interesting how much people can actually figure out. I know that there was a lot of people that were wondering what is happening to the High Evolutionary at the end? Actually, if you look at the animal stampede, where all the animals come out, which is a huge sequence for us, because it was all CG animals, obviously and that was a very complicated. But you see in the back that, I think Drax is actually carrying the High Evolutionary on his back. I’m not sure everybody’s seen that because it’s very difficult to see, but I know some people on the internet have picked it up. You do see him, but you’ve really got to pay attention.

There was a scene that is actually I think in the bonuses on the Blu-ray and maybe on Disney+ that we cut where you could see on Knowhere, the High Evolutionary and Rocket and Rocket putting him into a prison. Which was kind of a bit of a reversal of the fate of the two of them. I think that scene is on the Blu-ray at least. It got cut because the ending was a little too long and a little too much, too many endings. But it was kind of telling you what’s really happening to the High Evolutionary at that point.

The Old 97s perform for Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Very cool! And then you’ve been playing in this Marvel sandbox for a while all the way back with the original Captain America movie. What’s your favorite part of getting to do these Marvel movies?

Stephane Ceretti: I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve been doing, not always, but most of the time, I’ve been able to work on the first films. So it’s creating the universe. It’s the world building thing that I really like. So for example doing the first Guardians we have to figure out everything. I remember discussing with the production designer at the time, Charlie Wood and we were like “Well, we can’t use a door handle from Ikea. We have to figure out where the door handle is in this world.” So everything has to be designed, and the characters and the powers and all that stuff.

I’ve been lucky enough, I’ve done this, I’ve done the first Doctor Strange. Same thing, we had so much to figure out about magic in the MCU at the time. Trying to get a fresh approach to it. And then I did Eternals. I did Ant-Man 2, which was number 2, but we were finally going into the Quantum Realm which we hadn’t really gone to. So that was another level of worldbuilding for me. So I really like that aspect of things. Figuring out the characters and the world they live in. It’s always super exciting.

And then working with different directors, they all have their little different things. It’s always interesting to work with different personalities like that. It’s very interesting. It’s like getting inside the mind of the director and understanding what they want. What their thing is. To me, it’s fascinating.

I saw you’re on the new Superman movie with James Gunn, too. I’m very excited to see you bring the world-building from that into the DC Universe too.

Stephane Ceretti: As I said, I love doing that kind of stuff. So that’s really great.

About Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Big Groot and the Guardians of the Galaxy in Vol. 3

In the final chapter of the trilogy, the Guardians of the Galaxy are adjusting to life on Knowhere while Peter Quill is still reeling from the loss of Gamora. When a new threat from Rocket’s past resurfaces, Peter rallies the Guardians to save one of their own and once again protect the universe. However, failure could mean the end of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Check out our other Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 interviews here:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is now available on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, and DVD.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

Source link