The Marvel Cinematic Universe is going green with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The Disney+ series explores the origins of Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s attorney cousin. After his blood intermixes with hers, it turns her into the titular heroine, forcing her to find a balance between her life as a lawyer and her superhero life.
Tatiana Maslany leads the cast of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law alongside Jameela Jamil, Ginger Gonzaga, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Segarra, Tim Roth, Benedict Wong, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jon Bass, Rhys Coiro, Patti Harrison, and Charlie Cox. Bringing a fourth-wall-breaking and formula-shifting approach to the MCU, the series proves to be equal parts hilarious and thrilling.
In honor of the show’s recent finale, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with FuseFX VFX Supervisor Josh Galbincea to discuss She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, his team’s past work with Marvel, his excitement about recreating The Incredible Hulk opening, and more.
Josh Galbincea on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Screen Rant: I loved She-Hulk from start to finish, and I thought the show was phenomenal throughout. How did you and your team come to be a part of the She-Hulk visual effects team?
Josh Galbincea: FuseFX actually has a longer running history with Marvel on past shows, like Loki, and future shows too. So, we kind of were already in the mix with them, and quite a bit of She-Hulk was shot out here in Atlanta, so it just made sense to bring on the FuseFX Atlanta location to help out with the show. Then, obviously, myself, VFX Supervisor, producers, and stuff like that at our location, were kind of newer to the project, but we hailed from the LA office, and quite a few other people do, too. So, it’s just all one big family, we kind of put our names out there, and landed it.
I know there are different teams handling different effects throughout, and I believe you handled the set extensions, especially in regard to She-Hulk appearing in locations. Can you talk a little bit about what you and your team brought to the show specifically?
Josh Galbincea: Yeah. There was, I would say, three or four major things that we brought to the table. The biggest part of that would be set extension, and I can go into that in a second. I would say the second thing would be episode 9, episode 109, that’s how we labeled it, but it was the last episode. The opening sequence is another major thing that we did, because Marvel got film scans of the original Incredible Hulk TV show from the 1970s with Bill Bixby, and, if you’re current, it’s basically a shot-for-shot of the original TV show. So, that was the other big thing that we did, because we actually took those original film scans that Marvel got, and we digitally painted out Bill Bixby’s Bruce Banner, and then we replaced him with Jennifer Walters.
So, we actually incorporated her into the literal original footage, which was kind of fun. We had to grain it up, and make it all older looking, 16mm film style. Then, we also did a few larger CG shots, such as Mr. Immortal when he jumps out of the window of the law office, that was a completely CG pane of glass that he jumps through, and when he lands, and the camera pulls back, as he gets off the car, that was all CG glass on the ground. So, we did quite a bit of CG glass and sim work on that. Then, the fourth thing was we had shared an asset with Digital Domain on Daredevil’s cowl, and on a few sequences, I’m not sure the reason, I’m not sure if it wasn’t on set, or they changed how they wanted the story to play after the fact, but he wasn’t wearing it, so we did a CG cowl under the helmet, and under the shirt, along his neckline, and we had to integrate that in as realistic as possible with the live-action footage, then do a cloth sim, so it looks like everything is just one cohesive costume.
But, like I said, the majority of our work was set extension, so anytime you’re inside of Jen Walters’ apartment, or the law offices, is complete blue screen. Nothing was shot on location, they were sets that were built. I couldn’t guess, but — this is bad [Laughs] — as a supervisor, I don’t know technically what it was, but as a fan, I would guess that a third of the show actually takes place in her apartment or In the law offices, so anytime they’re inside of those two locations, we had to basically pull a blue screen key and put the outside back there. So, that was a lot of work, because that’s a lot of shots, honestly. But, the cool thing about that is Marvel, for the law offices — do you want me to get technical, I can go technical a little bit?
I’d love to hear it!
Josh Galbincea: All right, cool. Marvel provided what are called spherical HDRIs, which are basically High Dynamic Range images, where they take a full 360 [image]. Basically, they went to downtown Los Angeles, like the top of a building, and got a full aerial wrap around, so for us, it was important to create and make a cohesive north, east, south and west. Because, you have different offices in the law office, you have the conference room, you have Jen’s office, you have all these different offices. So, when we take place in all of those different offices, what we did is took their 3D wraparound, high-dynamic-range image, and then we got a downtown Los Angeles 3D model, and we kind of set up “Okay, if the building was plotted right here, which offices would face north, east, south and west?”
And then we took their 3D HDRI, and then kind of rotated that and made sure that it lined up, and that it was very cohesive. So, every time you’re in Jen’s office, you’re seeing one direction, north or east, anytime you’re in the conference room, you’re looking out towards the same set of buildings in downtown Los Angeles. So it was very much rooted in realism, if that building was there, and they were on that floor, and looking out in those directions. It’s little things like that that are the invisible effects, but you don’t notice, and there’s so many of them that it just kind of passes you by, but it’s important to tell the story. It’s also important, actually, the other reason why, I’ll just answer this preemptively, as someone previously asked me like, “Why blue screen, why not shoot in an actual building or something like that?”
I think there’s pros and cons to each, but I think the biggest part about blue screen as opposed to on-location, or even LED screen technology, is if you can pull a key, you can always art direct your background after the fact. Whereas, if you’re doing an LED screen, or shooting on-location, you’re stuck with what you have, and if you want to fix it, it becomes very time-consuming and expensive. So, that was kind of a decision on Marvel’s part, if we could change the lighting, they could change the lighting on set, which is good for production.
Then, we can change like, “Oh, we want to move the skyline a little bit,” or, “This building doesn’t look really good, it’s kind of poking out of somebody’s head, let’s just rotate the background a little bit and kind of give it a better composition.” So that’s cool, that’s another reason why it’s cool to have that kind of approach towards it, so you can art direct your shots, which we all know Marvel is all about making things compositionally perfect. So, it was really cool to be a part of that and kind of help out.
It sounds like a lot of the focus was on the office. Did you have a specific “set” that you enjoyed working on the most?
Josh Galbincea: For me personally, the thing that I enjoyed working on the most was the actual opening of the 109 sequence. For Marvel, that was a love letter to the original TV show, and for me, I wasn’t born in the ’70s, I was born in the ’80s, but I am old enough to remember watching the reruns in my grandparents’ living room growing up as a kid. So, growing up in the ’80s, I was a huge Marvel and DC fanboy, so that was really cool, because to be part of that love letter, and to be part of a cool sequence that was hyperstylized, it looks like it was shot on original film. Obviously, we removed Bixby and put in Jennifer Walters in the shots, and we had to match things like gate weave, because everything’s shot digital now, so there’s no such thing as gate weave.
But, back then, as the film goes through the cameras, it’s mechanical, so you get that little stutter that happens, a lot of grain, a lot of pops and hits on the film, and stuff like that. There’s a lot of hype behind the spaceships, the lasers, and explosions, stuff like that, but to be part of a sequence like that, that seems to be such a love letter, and no one was expecting that. The other thing that was really cool about that opening sequence for us was, I feel like episode 109 — the last episode, I’m sorry, on Disney+ it’s probably just labeled like episode 8, but like by our system we go by, the last episode is where the She-Hulk meta comes to full fruition, looks at the camera, she does that throughout, but she really breaks out the fourth wall and goes into Marvel and stuff.
So, that opening sequence kind of plays into that, as well, because it’s a weird kind of alternate reality opening, and I don’t think Marvel has ever done anything that cool, or that creative before that, I hope they do more of it. But, it was just really cool to be a part of that. It wasn’t the hardest work in the world, it was still time-consuming, and had to be pixel perfect, but it was just a really cool thing to be a part of, and to kind of take that whole thing home for them.
I loved that sequence, I remember when I first heard it was coming, I was like, “Oh, that’s gonna be great.” Who presented that idea? Was it Marvel, was it Kevin Feige, was it Jessica Gao?
Josh Galbincea: I’m not sure who, by the time it got to us, it had already been fully fleshed out. What I can tell you is that it was no easy feat for them to get the 16mm original film scans, because that was shot in 1977, I think, when the original came out. So, that’s over 40 years old of film, and they put it in vaults and stuff, but film degrades over time, and a lot of that stuff can get lost. So, I think for them, they made the decision to do it, and I think they made it early on, because it definitely was always a part of the last episode.
When we started working on it, we started working on all episodes at the very beginning, and as they cut and added more shots, or tried to find, “Hey, we’re gonna move this sequence to a different episode.” Over time, we got added more and more shots, so it’s kind of a small patch that we got at the beginning, it spills out in the middle, and then it all compresses, and we got to get everything done by the end. But, they provided film scans pretty early on, so I think it was a decision that was made probably in the writing or early on in that timeline there.
You’ve worked with Marvel before, and I love that the show has so many other Marvel characters involved in it. As you say, visual cohesion is not only important to this show, but to Marvel as a whole. What was it like for you finding that perfect balance, especially with characters like Wong and Abomination?
Josh Galbincea: I can only speak to this as a fan, because technically FuseFX did not do any actual work on She-Hulk, or the original Hulk, or Abomination. But I will say that Marvel’s super collaborative, so when it comes to their relationships with studios, with VFX studios, we can present ideas. A lot of the times they get shot down, they have a very clear-cut direction, but they are super collaborative. I think the biggest thing for Marvel, in general is they’ve worked very hard to develop and stick with a visual style, and you can see that through all of their films, even their magic has a unique voice and style to it. Not only Wanda and Dr. Strange, their chaos magic versus whatever, they have their own look to the different styles of magic, but they all feel like they’re under one roof.
Even characters like Daredevil got a little bit of an upgrade in his suit, but it’s still Daredevil. It’s not necessarily the 1980s fully-red suit, or whatever, but it’s still a good mix of the original suit and stuff like that. So, I think as a VFX studio, all we want to do is stay true to what Marvel wants to do. We can put our flair or our spin on it, but a lot of the times, for a year, or years, even before the first initial frame gets shot on any episode, Marvel has done visual development, both in traditional 2D renderings, drawings, and concept design, all the way to 3D designs and renderings for directors to look at and see. Ultimately, all of that stuff probably has to get signed off by Feige at some point, but they do such a good job on presenting and giving us the stuff to then make, it’s really a nice kind of, you know, they do a lot of legwork, honestly, in-house.
I would say for us that, and this is where the collaboration, to elaborate on that, comes in, is after something is shot, you run into all sorts of interesting puzzles, or little things to try to fix or get around. For instance, really quick, and this is not necessarily a design from a costume standpoint, but when Nikki is in her office, and she’s talking, there’s the set extensions that we had on the set, you have these pillars that run up along the wall. What originally they were going to do is have glass windows in the second floor, and it was kind of like there were many floors above them, many floors below them. But, Marvel decided that they didn’t want to have floors above them, so it was on us to figure out, “Okay, so how do we fill this in, fill in the blue screen glass windows above, and make them look like a continuation of the building?”
We kind of did our own digital matte painting of the wood slats that are in the office, and some marbling, and we went through a few different iterations of that before we found something they ultimately liked. But, it was kind of on us to help them problem-solve something like that. That’s a smaller kind of example, but that goes all the way to costumes, 3D renderings of characters. Really quick, another thing that I just thought of, too, is since we were digitally adding Daredevil’s cowl, there’s a scene where Daredevil and She-Hulk, actually Jen at the time, they’re kissing when they come back to her apartment, and she pulls off his helmet.
We’ve never seen that in any iteration of Charlie Cox in the show of what that cowl looks like as it slips up underneath his shirt. So, we asked them like, “Do you want it to split in the back? Do you want it to be zippered up in the front, or come along the side, like the cool kind of design?” And they’re like, “Whatever looks good, or whatever feels right.” So, we tried a few different things, and presented it, and luckily, we nailed it on the first try. But yeah, that’s the kind of stuff that becomes collaborative.
I look forward to you guys having more. Josh, thank you so much for taking the time to chat.
Josh Galbincea: Thank you, for sure, and hopefully, I’ll see you in season 2!
Josh Galbincea: You know, I enjoyed it, too, and I’ll go on record saying this. Marvel fans are definitely an exciting, but tough crowd at the same time, and you’re always going to have internet trolls of some sort. But, as a 40-year-old man, I would say that the show not necessarily is my demographic, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was a great thing to put to screen, and I really think it’s cool how — I have no insider information on this.
But, I think it’s cool how Marvel is starting to lean into that fourth wall, there’s so much you can [do], I think it’ll freshen it up the more that they do that, in my opinion. Because, once we get into the quantum realm, and all of those other stuff, there’s just so many directions you can go, and introducing another universe, yeah, you can get more characters, but you can also get different styles, which I think is really cool, too.
About She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
In Marvel Studios’ “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany)—an attorney specializing in superhuman-oriented legal cases—must navigate the complicated life of a single, 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk.
The nine-episode comedy series welcomes a host of MCU vets, including Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination, and Benedict Wong as Wong, as well as Jameela Jamil, Josh Segarra, Ginger Gonzaga, Jon Bass and Renée Elise Goldsberry.
Check out our previous She-Hulk interviews here:
Next: Every MCU TV Show Ranked Worst To Best (Including She-Hulk)She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is now streaming on Disney+.