Moon Knight is a show that delves deep into its comic origins, not just with Marc Spector but with the Egyptian gods that play a vital role in the plot. In order to incorporate these larger-than-life characters, the show needed to go to Cairo, Giza, and other spots in Egypt for filming. Easy enough to do, right?
Due to travel restrictions during filming, the crew wasn’t allowed to go film in major areas in Egypt. Instead, they faked it with VFX. Wētā FX visual effects supervisor Martin Hill explained that instead of trying to recreate the entire city, they made a big chunk good enough to represent all the scenes they needed.
“We’re not going to build Cairo down to the individual every building perfectly accurately with every curtain and whatever,” Hill said. “We know for the style of sequence that we had and the amount of time that we were spending in it, we knew we had to target [certain sections of the city], so we knew we had the Giza Complex, we did the marketplace, we knew we’d be flying over the city but also be in amongst some of the building as well. So, we essentially from photo reference went and built a library of 20 or 30 buildings that you could use from different angles and placed them into appropriate areas, and then added loads of dressing.”
Ironically though, one of the hardest things to reconstruct was the pyramids for the final battle sequence.
“What we essentially did was found some reputable stock footage photography of the whole area, created from photogrammetry or a very high level detailed area of the whole Giza Complex,” the artist adds. “It was a question of really taking [director Mohamed Diab’s] notes apart because we wanted to make it colorful, so we looked at a lot of nighttime photography of Cairo, and if you look at, let’s say, a European city as opposed to a North African one or an American city, the actual light colors are quite different, whether it’s the tungsten streetlights or whatever, everything has a different feel to it. It was about really selecting all those colors and making sure that everything was vibrant but looked very much like Cairo and not Generic City.”
It clearly worked. Many viewers likely wouldn’t have guessed the overwhelming VFX art they were witnessing. Hopefully, if Season 2 of Moon Knight comes around, they can do more real-life filming in Egypt versus relying on digital reconstruction.