AS: How closely were you involved with the visual effects department on Black Panther? Did your team do a lot of set designs and illustrations that VFX then based their visuals on?
HB: Ryan and I made a pact that visual effects were going to be background as much as possible. Black Panther is maybe the only Marvel film that had as much building as we did. But there are certain things that you can’t build. VFX came in maybe two months after I started so I already had illustrators going. We had illustrated and designed everything.
I created a five hundred page bible that talked about the history of Wakanda, the demographics, the land, the topography maps. It talked about each tribe, it talked about the metallurgy and mining of Vibranium, the heart-shaped herb, and all the different provinces in Wakanda. It was pretty dense with information, illustrations, and reference images of what the buildings were in each part of Golden City, the capitol of Wakanda, which is what we were focused on at that time. Of course in the sequel you’ll see other parts of Wakanda.
So that bible then went to the ILM and The Third Floor visual effects houses. What I would do in post is go into the Marvel offices and sit down with the visual effects supervisor Geoff Baumann. He’d say, Okay here’s what they’ve done with Golden City, and I’d go through and say, Okay, this needs to not be that. Let’s go back and look at the city. I had one person working on building Golden City in 3D. Which took about eight months. We dumped it onto a ginormous hard drive and that went to ILM so they had our 3D digital city.
When we created the palace in 3D we were able to go inside the models so when we built the sets it matched when you’re looking from inside the set outside. And my art directors also built sets in VR so I could stand inside the set and walk around and say, Okay let’s move this here, move that there.
We did the same thing with the Royal Talon fighter aircraft. That interior was all built. We built some of the exterior as well. And we built the front window using a huge piece of glass. It was really expensive and I was shocked they let us do it but because of the way Ryan wanted to shoot it, we had to. We designed all of the aircraft and we dumped all of those files to ILM and they did the VFX on them.
And the great mound where T’Challa comes back in the third act was all a huge build. That was probably half of a football field and we constructed two stories of the actual building. The VFX was the background and the extension of the building. Everything else was practical and built. We cut the top of a hill off! And we had about a hundred feet in diameter poured concrete, probably fifteen feet deep, because that’s the hole they fall into. So it was a real situation!
AS: Did you ever put up scaffolding to show scale to the director in prep before starting a build, like Rick Carter does?
HB: We didn’t put up scaffolding for height anywhere but we what we did for every single set was tape it out. We taped the whole Nigerian road out, which was like eight hundred feet long, so they could do the action and gain speed. Many times we taped out Warrior Falls. We did it for every single set.