Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest addition to Marvel's satisfying repertoire of comic book movies, engineered to appeal to the masses without angering their ardent original fans. A huge chunk of the responsibility for making these comic book movies feel right falls on the shoulders of the VFX animators who adapt the comic book universe for the silver screen. For Guardians of the Galaxy, Framestore—the special effects maestros behind Edge Of Tomorrow and The Double—tackled the design for what they call their most complex environment to date: Knowhere, a seedy floating city built into a giant space skull.
Framestore built Knowhere with approximately 250 unique models of buildings, pipes, railings, and lights, assembled into a 1.2 billion-polygon world. “It’s so complex because there was a huge amount of geometry to contain in one space,” says Stuart Penn, one of the CG Supervisors in charge of the project, in an article on the Framestore site.
Maintaining that geometry is so challenging because—without betraying too many spoilers—an extensive high-speed battle scene takes our heroes throughout every nook and cranny of the digitally constructed space. Framestore had to maintain perfect continuity while capturing (and blowing up) gigabytes upon gigabytes of virtual buildings, walls, and spaceships. Making sure each detail lines up just so throughout a high-octane, cosmically destructive fight wasn't easy, and required months of careful planning and diligent VFX work. But, $175 million dollars at the box office—and counting—suggest that Framestore's animators, too, are heroes.
Framestore was responsible for both the Knowhere sequence and the animation of Rocket Racoon—which involved writing software to realistically simulate every single hair on his head, body, and arms—throughout the film. Read more spoiler-heavy descriptions of Knowhere's creation—including how Framestore made the otherworldly black fire spill out of the power stone—on Framestore's website.