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Digital Domain’s VFX for Chafa and More for Marvel’s Echo

For the premiere season of Marvel Studios’ Echo, the visual effects team at Digital Domain helped visualize the origin story of the Choctaw people, a Native American tribe belonging to the southeastern part of the United States. To bring the story and the opening scene to the screen, Digital Domain worked closely with production and the Choctaw Nation to ensure the visuals and storytelling held true to the Choctaw culture.


104 MSN FINAL EDIT GHR DIGITAL DOMAIN.mxf .01 23 32 15.Still001 624x256The series opens in a dark cave located inside the Earth where we see Chafa, the first Choctaw, covered with clay, emerge from a glowing, swirling pool of magical blue water. Chafa exits the pools and drinks the water. As she stares down at her hands, tattoos glow and swirl onto her hand, and more clay people begin to appear. A bishinik bird then lands in her palm before flying away as an earthquake begins and the cave starts to collapse.

Chafa holds up the cave as the clay people seek safety. The cave collapses and in the next scene, Chafa and her people are seen in a field with trees alongside a grass mound. The clay begins to crack and shed from their bodies, and they are revealed in human form. The scene closes as the mighty Chafa leads her people.




The Cave101 CCO FCP SHA FINAL EDIT GHR DIGITAL DOMAIN.mxf .01 01 20 11.Still002 624x238
To bring this sequence to life, Digital Domain’s team of VFX artists focused on several key areas, including the cave, the pool, the clay people and the bishinik bird. The team tackled the cave environment first. Artists digitally built the cave asset, and because of lighting and the ambient atmosphere in which the cave was shot, they replaced the majority of the set, including the columns. This sequence also required a fair amount of roto work, as the clay people needed to be roto’d out to recreate the cave.

The Pool
To create the pool in the show, the team had to replace and simulate the practical pool. Artists created many iterations and gave the pool a celestial galaxy-like, swirly design. The sequence with Chafa emerging from the water was shot practically so the Digital Domain team replaced the actor’s body, excluding her face. The actor could be seen waiting for a cue to emerge, so the team painted her out. Artists also simulated the actor’s body exiting the pool and the water that dripped from her.


101 CCO FCP SHA FINAL EDIT GHR DIGITAL DOMAIN.mxf .01 00 49 16.Still001 624x270Clay Transformations
The VFX team created two digidoubles showing the transformation as the characters shed the clay, revealing their human form. The Digital Domain team worked closely with the production team for this scene because the way the clay dried, cracked and peeled from the skin was art-directed. The close-up shots of the hands were complex due to the layers and lines within the skin. Additionally, the team created the mound, the grass and the trees for the background of the environment.

The VFX team at Digital Domain used Autodesk Maya for animation and layout, Maxon ZBrush and Foundry Mari for texturing and modeling; SideFX Solaris for rendering and simulation inside of Houdini (also from SideFX) and Foundry Nuke for compositing.

The Digital Domain team also collaborated with another VFX vendor, ILM, sharing the asset for the biskinik bird. Although the bird was only in about five shots, creating the bird’s feathers was extremely intricate. For Episode 5, “Maya,” Digital Domain’s VFX team animated last moment of the pow-wow scene.