Creating the Visual Effects for ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Phil Prates is the FOLKS VFX supervisor behind Marvel's newest film Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumaniaAnt-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania follows Ant-Man and the Wasp as they explore the Quantum Realm. They interact with strange new creatures and go on adventures that push their limits beyond what they thought was possible. 

One of the most significant aspects of FOLKS’ work was working on Ant-Man's suit. FOLKS was responsible for suit replacement since there were such heavy stunt sequences that the actors could not perform in full costume. The team was tasked with creating Kang's final faceoff with Ant-Man in the Celestium, a 360-degree interior environment. The sequence was done in over 120 shots, with the team extending the practical stage to complete the set and transporting it into Chronopolis with another 360-degree exterior environment. They added smoke, debris, and damage throughout the Celestium. The team was also responsible for a large CGFX portal in the center of the Celestium. Digital assets were also made for Ant-man, Wasp, Kang, and Quantumnauts. 

PH: Hi Phil! When did you first get into the industry? What drew you to visual effects?

Phil Prates: I first got into visual effects in the commercial VFX industry. I had been interested in film editing since taking a VFX program in high school and had an opportunity at a commercial shop. Working as an editor slowly grew into every facet of VFX in commercial projects, from on-set to finishing.

PH: Can you talk a bit about some of your work? How has it evolved and shaped you into the type of VFX Supervisor you are today?

Phil Prates: With my commercial VFX background, I think the variety and speed of projects really shaped me into the supervisor I am today. It is a very client-driven field and the format is doing the work with the clients right over your shoulder. With such a variety of projects, I stepped right into learning so many software packages to facilitate the project needs, this gave me a wide view of every department from editing to finishing.

PH: How do you go about selecting a project to work on? Do you have certain criteria you follow?

Phil Prates: I am very interested in realistic-looking VFX, the stuff that you either don't know is digital or the stuff that you can't tell is. I am mainly drawn to projects that lend themselves to that aesthetic, but always find it exciting to stretch my skills on projects of any kind.

PH: Can you share some information on FOLKS and what your work there looks like?

Phil Prates: FOLKS is a great group of talented people, each department a master in their domain. This kind of multi-headed team is a great way to work, we bounce ideas and solutions from person to person to ensure the best image is the one we create.

PH: How did you become with Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania?

Phil Prates: When we got the call about the project, it was clear that we would need to leverage multiple facilities within Pitch Black to support the amount of work. With a history of working with RSP and Jamie Macdougall, I was thrilled with the opportunity to work with them again in this next adventure for Ant-Man.

PH: Can you talk me through your pre-production mindset when constructing the design and effects?

Phil Prates: When we look at our overall shot work, we first need to decide how best to approach each part. With the end fight in the Celestium, we decided that we would need to build a digital version of everything. With such a large variety of types of work, we needed to be able to recreate or extend everything that was on set.

PH: One of the biggest things FOLKS was responsible for was Ant-Man's suit replacement. What were some of the challenges in designing suits for actors to perform such rigorous stunt sequences?

Phil Prates: Whenever a film has complex stunts, there will almost always need to be a touch-up or modification to the practical suits. Stunts can be complex and dangerous to do on set and with all that armor that Ant-Man, Wasp, and Kang have on. In many shots, entire sections of the armor were removed in order to perform the required stunts. We had scans of the actors in their armor and created one-to-one digital equivalents so we could seamlessly bring back any needed part. We also had the additional challenge that because the stunt actors were now able to move more freely, we needed to resolve these large rigid armour plates to match the appropriate positions, while still capturing the original stunts. There were also many cases where the stunts were enhanced for a seamless and epic battle. 

PH: How many iterations of the suit did you have to go through before landing on one that the actors could use, as well as one that translated well on-screen?

Phil Prates: The technology used for capturing the reference scans of our characters is incredibly accurate and very detailed, this made matching the on-screen look a lot more achievable with less iterations. We had a near-perfect reference, so it was more of a make it to match, then when we started rendering in shot lighting, we made some specific adjustments to just give it that little extra realism. Our asset team did spend countless hours making sure it looked as photographic as possible and the final finishing just pushed it that extra bit to make it seamless.

PH: What were some of the challenges you encountered and how did you address those?

Phil Prates: Time is always the biggest challenge we face in VFX, eager fans wanting to see the film in the theatre are just waiting for us to finish. Many vendors had to work round the clock and most importantly, together, to create the final film images you see. So many of the challenges were swiftly solved because of the great team mentality and asset sharing from all vendors and the VFX crew working right up to the finish line.

PH: Can you share how Kang's final faceoff with Ant-Man in the Celestium came together? What did the pre-production look like to get that to come together as it did on-screen?

Phil Prates: The Celestium was broken up into 3 main parts, there was a set that was built, and the actors were filmed in this location and this required extension and significant augmentation in many cases. That is where our digital asset came in, we had to build it twice, once as the completed set before the batter and once after a massive chunk of metal comes crashing through the roof and broke this place into parts. RSP built this asset as a one-to-one recreation and then added broke it to pieces post-damage. It was in these two environments that hit after hit we had Ant-Man and Kang swing through. We blocked out all the directions early on so we could ensure the correct environment was seen in every shot and added the main portal lighting from the center of the stage.

PH: How did the VFX for the CGFX portal in the center of the Celestium come about?

Phil Prates: The portal pulled its style from a shattering glass look with long inky elements pulling into it. This key effect was center stage throughout the sequence and not only helped us orient ourselves in the environment but also helped light it up. Splashes of orange were added across the set to let us know how far the actors were from the only way out.

PH: In your opinion, how does this film really step it up in terms of VFX?

Phil Prates: The ending sequence of this film is such a heavy VFX section, allowing many parts of the story to come together in a way that could not have been seen without VFX. The main purpose of the effects here is to help tell the story and keep the audience engaged throughout the last act.

PH: What's next for you and FOLKS?

Phil Prates: I am already onto my next feature film, pulling across with me a huge group of the same talented people that helped make Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania possible.

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