Zoic Studios recently crafted 150 VFX shots for the Weinstein Company/Netflix production of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, including an epic battle to save a legendary sword from the grips of an evil warlord. Led by production VFX supervisor Mark Stetson, who was on location for the shoot in New Zealand and China, Zoic created a pivotal action sequence that takes place around an ornate pagoda. Stetson oversaw the VFX for the entire film and worked closely with the filmmakers, the production art department and the Zoic Vancouver CG team to bring the stylized 18th-century Chinese aesthetic to life.
The pagoda as designed was too large to construct as a single set piece and was to be portrayed exclusively in CG. One interior set, a 10-meter section of the exterior built in front of a backlot greenscreen, and a four-meter ground floor built on location, were created by the art department for the battle sequence. To complete the full seven-storey structure, the Zoic team created a CG pagoda for wider establishing shots, working carefully to maintain consistency on details with the interior and exterior partial sets. The action-packed sequence meant a variety of stunt work, which called for complex rig removals, 2D and 3D head replacements on stunt doubles and several digital doubles complete with simmed cloth and hair. Additionally, building damage was added to visualize the destruction from the battle’s escalation.
Having previously worked on a number of wire-stunt features in the past, including Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Stetson was savvy to this type of VFX challenge and worked closely with the Zoic team to deliver seamless final shots that highlighted the impressive fight choreography.
In addition to the action-packed fight sequence, Zoic also worked on a number of wide establishing shots of the pagoda environment earlier in the film, amplifying the sweeping landscapes and romantic views to immerse viewers in Yuen Wo-Ping’s vision of this chapter of Wang Dulu‘s Crane-Iron series, Iron Knight, Silver Vase. Other key sequences that Zoic worked on included the all-digital shots of Silent Wolf and Hades Dai tumbling down the face of the pagoda among the debris of the collapsing roofs as well as the VFX involved with the fight between the Blind Enchantress and Yu Shu-Lien.