How Visual Effects Created ‘Individual Spider Styles’ in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’

Spider-Man No Way Home VFX
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

“Spider-Man : No Way Home” entangles Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in a “multiverse of madness” that culminates in a climactic battle at night atop the Statue of Liberty where web slingers from past franchises, played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, face familiar villainous foes. The friendly neighborhood crime fighters required updated costume designs and an intricate web of visual effects that included the creation of full digital doubles to bring the historic moment to life.

“One concern was how we were going to visually separate these Spider-Man characters from each other,” says Sony Imageworks VFX supervisor Chris Wagener, who oversaw the massive sequence. To pull off the feat, the team went through all previous films identifying “individual spider styles.” They created a visual style guide that helped them distinguish each Spider-Man through unique characteristics performed by Maguire, Garfield and Holland.

While the clips provided nuance to the physical performances, differentiating the color and tone of the Spidey suits was another challenge. The team first considered various rips or scorch marks on the costumes, but once they started to light the scene, those ideas became unnecessary thanks, in part, to the swarm of energy generated by Electro (Jamie Foxx).

“We used him as a unique lighting source to light the end battle,” Wagener says. “In a sense he’s a giant electrical storm, and anytime you see him on camera, there’s this natural lighting that’s flashing and violent but beautiful. Since he’s an omnipresent threat, it allowed us to sculpt out the Spider-Man characters in a nighttime environment and give them a visual identity even though their suits are similar.”

Creating the digital doubles was made possible by referencing detailed Lidar scans and photos as well as new in-house proprietary technology, which, in particular, allowed VFX to present ideas more seamlessly, especially scenes with the shape-shifting Sandman (Thomas Haden Church).

“In previous films it would sometimes take up to a week to get these giant simulations out, but now, we’re able to iterate things quickly and get them in front of director John Watts to see if it’s what he’s envisioning,” Wagener says.