Marvel Studios asked our team at Perception to conceptualize the advanced technology for Wakanda for their newest film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Our teams spent 2 years collaborating on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, designing, building and visualizing technology that has progressed from the technology we crafted for Black Panther. We contributed a range of new designs, from HUDs and smart screens to interfaces and holograms.
MONTAGE OF PERCEPTION'S WORK ON BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
A CONTINUOUS COLLABORATION
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was not our team’s first introduction to the world of Wakanda. For Black Panther, we conceptualized nearly all of Wakanda’s technology, along with designing the main on end title sequence. We worked on Black Panther for 2 years, coming in during the pre-production stage to build the foundations for Wakanda’s technology. Not only did we design the look of the tech, but we also developed and fleshed out the functions, origins and inner workings of each innovation. Our contributions became so deeply rooted in the lore and culture of Wakanda that when it was time to begin pre-production on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel Studios brought our team in again for our expertise.
“[Perception’s] hard work has sparked excitement and curiosity, guiding our characters across land and sea with the power of integrated Vibranium technology.”
– Marvel Studios
The Technology of Shuri's lab
CONCEPTUALIZING NEW WAKANDAN TECHNOLOGY
Before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was filmed or the script was written, Marvel Studios consulted with our team to envision the look, function and practicality of Shuri’s evolved Wakandan technology. We spent months discussing with Marvel Studios ideas on how her technology could have advanced, its new purpose, and how it operates. While doing this, we were also crafting a new visual language for the technology and the characters that use and own it. As the movie was being filmed, we would meet with Marvel Studios to see where our ideas landed in the film and then, how they would become visualized and refined in post-production.
Behind the scenes of Shuri's lab
During the development process, our team would examine what we did for Black Panther and experiment with how we could elevate it to the next level. We found that while most of the technology in Black Panther revolved around our concept of Vibranium Sand, our work for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had become more light-based.
Light Based Lab Screens Sync Tests
Light-based technology is a much higher fidelity, expanding the limits that Vibranium Sand held in the first film. This allowed us to build more detailed and intricate designs that displayed the complexity and sophistication of the wide range of Wakandan technology.
RESEARCHING THE FUTURE
With every film we work on, we always conduct detailed research into the tech we are creating. Everything is based on real-world advancements and possibilities. While our work for Black Panther was heavily based in sound and acoustic levitation, our contributions to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever focused on light and how that light-based UI could be manipulated.
Light based smart screens in Shuri's lab
One aspect we heavily researched was how to potentially give screens dimension. Screens are typically flat, but we studied how a screen could be perceived as a container. From the front, the information would be perfectly visible, but how would that information be seen if the viewer was standing to the side of the screen. Since screens are so prominent throughout this film, we researched different ways for these screens to operate.
Screen view tests
RETURNING TO SHURI'S LAB
In Black Panther, our team conceptualized and designed all of the UI features in Shuri’s lab. For Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, we expanded upon these designs and introduced newer, updated technology into her lab, including smart screens, holograms and supporting UI. For each of these new interfaces, we used a white and orange color scheme. The white of the UI shows how clean and organized the UI is, while the orange is representative of the warmth of Wakanda.
Look development of Shuri's lab technology
One of the most prominent elements in Shuri’s lab are her interactive smart screens. The smart screens are completely made of glass and use light-based elements to display the contents written on the screen. These screens are used to share information and can be written on using a compatible pen. Since Shuri is often handling several pieces of information at once, we crafted her screens to include several graphs and data visualization displays in order to lay out her work in an organized manner that is easy for her to interpret.
Initial concepts for Shuri's smart screen UI
To develop the operations of this screen, our team was sent footage of Letitia Wright interacting with the screens and “writing” on them using a pen. We studied her gestures and interpreted what they meant through fine pen tracking.
Tracking test of Letitia Wright's writing
After examining her movements, we constructed an idea for the screen where it would translate Shuri’s writing into a sturdier, concrete text, formula or drawing. As Shuri writes on this board, her AI, Griot, would digest what she is writing, solidify it, change it and add data to it.
The screens were also very gesture based, stemming from Letitia Wright’s animated hand movements during filming. Data and information can be expanded upon, moved or thrown way by Shuri pushing, swiping or spinning her hands.
Gesture motion tests
To enhance all elements of the smart screens in Shuri’s lab, our team designed and animated individual widgets to be incorporated on each screen. These widgets would all react to information that Shuri is inputting, interacting with one another and animating based on Shuri’s movements.
Just like the rest of Shuri’s technology, these widgets are data driven, therefore they are comprised mostly of graphs and visual data displays. Even though they are small, they are meant to be interpreted and understood at a glance from Shuri.
IN DEPTH LOOK AT SHURI'S INTERFACE WIDGETS
Along with research, the screens are also used to help Riri Williams build her Ironheart suit. Our team crafted the build of the Ironheart suit and the supporting calculations. Since Riri is an engineer, we designed her screen to feel more like a structured blueprint, rather than the range of graphs and charts of Shuri’s screens.
MIDNIGHT ANGELS SCREEN
Shuri’s smart screens are not only used for calculations and active research, but they can also be used for informative displays. The build up to the premier of the Midnight Angels is an important plot point throughout the film, appearing on the screens in Shuri’s lab.
LOOK DEVELOPMENT OF THE MIDNIGHT ANGELS SCREEN
Our team designed the supporting UI widgets that appear around the suit figure, sharing critical analysis and information.
FINAL MIDNIGHT ANGELS SCREEN
ADDITIONAL LAB TECHNOLOGY
Accompanying the larger designs of Shuri’s lab were the smaller UI and holograms seen throughout the room. Some of this new technology includes handheld holograms and table UI. These new features draw influence from the lab UI we crafted for Black Panther but with a refreshed design to fit Wakanda’s new light-based style of technology.
SHURI'S EXAM TABLE
Another aspect of Shuri’s lab that we conceptualized were the interactive DNA strands. The DNA strands are a critical storytelling feature. The strands communicate the success and failure of how a synthesized heart-shaped herb could change the DNA of the person who consumes it. The DNA strand is one of the very first things that the audience sees in the film, so it was crucial that its importance and the information it was displaying were clear and impactful.
OPENING SCENE OF BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER, FEATURING THE DNA STRUCTURE
Because of how important the strand was to the plot, our team researched how DNA is typically represented and built. We studied how DNA is modified and the science behind those modifications. From there, we experimented with how a sample DNA strand could fit into this world and how the different parts of the strand could be manipulated.
DESIGN EXPLORATION OF THE DNA STRAND
Our team conceptualized a large scale, light based DNA strand made up of spheres. These spheres represent the different chemical bases that form DNA. The spheres can be grabbed and moved around, fitting in the palm of someone’s hand to easy tests and experiments. This allowed for the perfect depiction of DNA influence and modification.
HOW THE DNA STRANDS FORM IN THE LAB
To represent the successes and failures of DNA modification, our team came up with the concept that the spheres could change color based on their reaction to the alteration. To indicate failure, the spheres would morph into shades of red.
DNA STRUCTURE FAILURES
To indicate a success, the spheres would turn green. This would help to visually communicate the underlying complex data and calculations that Shuri is performing in a simplified and concise manner.
DNA STRUCTURE SUCCESS
CREATING GRIOT THE AI
One of our most interesting contributions to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was the development of Griot. A griot is an African storyteller, musical, singer and oral historian that keeps records of everything in the village. In the film, Shuri’s AI assistant is named Griot, and he appears upon request and helps her with research and calculations. Our team performed the entire conceptual development for Griot, beginning with who Griot is, what his personality and functions are, and how he physically looks.
EARLY GRIOT MOVEMENT EXPLORATIONS
Some of our early conceptual design for Griot was figuring out how Griot could move around and appear. We were inspired by limited hologram technology. We considered if Griot should be bound to a physical object somehow and that he is only able to move or appear where that object is. We explored light patterns etched into the floors and the walls that were Griot’s bounds of movements.
CONCEPTS FOR GRIOT'S FLOOR AND LIGHT BASED MOVEMENTS
DEVELOPING GRIOT'S PERSONALITY
Developing Griot’s personality was an imperative contribution to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever because Griot plays such a critical role in this film. In order to craft Griot’s look, we had to understand what his personality and role was. It was important to note that Griot is not Jarvis, and he cannot make any decision on his own. Griot cannot think for himself and he can only do what is being asked of him.
To figure out where this put Griot on a scale of intelligence, sentience, influence on his surroundings and personality, we created a graph that represented each of these traits. On this graph, we compared other AI in film and in the real world, such as Siri, Ultron and Wall-E to see where Griot falls. This helped us figure out a good look for him as well as how he should be portrayed.
EXPLORING MOVEMENT INSPIRED BY GRIOT'S PERSONALITY
Our final design for Griot is spherical with an orb in the middle. This orb shifts and and moves as it talks, pulsing with voice inflections and statements. Smaller UI bits surround Griot, providing details and extra dimension to the AI. Within the outer sphere, Griot can show data, allowing the AI to serve a visual purpose as well. Griot is light-based and follows Shuri’s orange and white color scheme.
FINAL LOOK FOR GRIOT
One of Griot’s most notable features is the map display. In an urgent search to locate Shuri and her Kimoyo Beads, Griot enters “map mode”, displaying a map while also calling Agent Ross. The appearance of Griot’s map and call feature would pair with the look of Griot itself. As we ran through design choices for Griot, we experimented with how the map could appear.
CONCEPT DESIGNS FOR GRIOT'S MAP
Our final design puts the map in the center of Griot’s main circle. This allows Griot to naturally zoom in on the map and pinpoint location destinations of items or people. The call feature is also smaller and dedicated to the edges of Griot’s circle, highlighting the map as the more prominent feature.
FINAL DESIGN OF GRIOT'S MAP AND CALL FEATURE
A SERIES OF HEADS UP DISPLAYS
One of the new advancements in Wakandan technology is the inclusion of HUDs throughout the film. From ships to super suits, our team created each HUD to align with the personality and needs of the character, along with the necessary functions that must be performed.
Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, is a new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She is a student at MIT with a passion and talent for engineering. Since this was Riri’s introduction into the MCU, we wanted to craft a HUD for her Ironheart suit that would establish the style and personality of her character. This design language would reflect her academic lifestyle and even where she grew up.
We went through several versions of Riri’s HUD to nail down what her design language should be. She is a student, an engineer and a programmer, but she is not a designer. We experimented with what the Ironheart HUD would look like if she bought a design kit and skinned her HUD that she was developing. We built another iteration that tested if she was building it to look similar and as information-dense as Iron Man’s HUD, but with her own flare on it. We even constructed an 8-bit design as one of our concepts.
Our final design landed close to Iron Man’s HUD but with a significant presence of Riri’s personality. It still had an 8-bit flare to show her youth and how different she is than Iron Man. To show off her personality, we included some fun elements within the UI such as a skull and cross bones when she’s targeting an enemy. Another way to communicate her personality was by making the cool scheme black, white and red for the Chicago Bulls.
ALL IRONHEART HUD SCENES FROM BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
MIDNIGHT ANGELS HUD
Another new suit that makes its debut in this film is the Midnight Angels. Our team also created the HUDs for the Midnight Angels suits. Unlike Ironheart’s HUD, which is more information dense and has more personality-inspired UI details, the HUDs of the Midnight Angels suits are more subdued and direct. Okoye and Anika are warriors who have fought with spears their whole lives. Stepping into a super suit is new for them, and therefore it would not benefit them for their HUDs to be busy and filled with data.
INITIAL CONCEPTS FOR THE MIDNIGHT ANGELS HUD
These HUDs also include a design language that is more in line with Shuri’s sphere since she was the architect who built them. The color scheme is white, blue and yellow, which match the main colors of the exterior of the Midnight Angels suits.
SHURI'S MOTORCYCLE HUD
While fleeing the police, Shuri’s hops onto a motorcycle and speeds through the streets of Boston. While driving the motorcycle, her HUD provides information on routes and safety measures, such as a drone following her.
DESIGN EXPLORATION FOR SHURI'S CYCLE HUD
The HUD is simple, only providing the necessary information through the UI. This HUD can also be seen from the exterior of the helmet.
FINAL DESIGN OF SHURI'S CYCLE HUD
Another HUD we contributed was the HUD of the ship that Shuri flies while attacking Namor, the Sunbird. This HUD is orange and white, following the design language of the technology in Shuri’s lab and the HUDs of other ships, such as the Royal Talon.
SUNBIRD HUD LOOK DEVELOPMENT
FINAL SUNBIRD HUD
NAKIA'S DRONE HUD
On a rescue mission for Shuri, Nakia takes remote control of an underwater drone ship using her Kimoyo Beads. Mimicking the look and function of the Kimoyo Bead hologram UI, the HUD of this drone is designed around pinpointing location and search and rescue.
AN UPDATE TO KIMOYO BEADS
Our team’s development of Kimoyo Beads played a huge role in Black Panther. We crafted these beads to be used for communication, healing, data transfer and more. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, our team gave Kimoyo Beads an update to show a prominent, plot-critical function. In this film, one of the main uses of Kimoyo Beads is to display data information through a small holographic UI that is projected above the bead bracelet.
UPDATED KIMOYO BEAD EXPLORATION
This wrist UI is used by several characters throughout the film, such as Okoye, Shuri and Nakia. Each of these characters uses the wrist UI for a unique and specialized purpose. Okoye uses her beads and the UI to read the heart rate and medical status of Shuri after she is knocked out.
CONCEPTS FOR OKOYE'S WRIST UI
OKOYE'S FINAL WRIST UI
Shuri utilizes her beads to scan the Vibranium fibers of a bracelet to help test the success rate of creating a new heart-shaped herb.
Nakia’s beads are used to track Shuri’s Kimoyo Beads, which then turns into a map that leads her to the ocean.
We originally conceptualized Kimoyo Beads in Black Panther to be one of the most versatile piece of technology that Wakanda has. Showcasing the Kimoyo Beads now being used for three different purposes, all stemming from the hologram function, further enforces the technological advancement of Wakanda and the versatility of the Kimoyo Beads.
Another one of our contributions that we revisited in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was the Royal Talon, a critical ship in Wakanda’s fleet. Taking another step away from Vibranium Sand, as was used in the navigational sand basin in Black Panther, our team conceptualized various light-based elements to the Royal Talon.
These light-based elements are used for several features inside of the Royal Talon, such as the UI and flight control holograms used by Okoye as the ship enters Wakanda. These holograms allow for an interactive and precise flight to pilot the ship through the barriers of Wakanda.
EXPLORATION OF ROYAL TALON HUD ELEMENTS
A secondary element that aids in the flight of this ship is the HUD of the Royal Talon. Inspiring the style of HUD of Shuri’s ship later in the film, orange, light-based UI helps guide the ship through data and metrics. This UI is mainly orange, further engaging with the warmth of Wakanda tones seen throughout the UI of the film.
FINAL ROYAL TALON DESIGNS
SEA LEOPARD HOLOGRAMS
While fighting the Talokan in the Atlantic Ocean, Wakanda’s ship, the Sea Leopard is invaded and loses power. Shuri is in the Royal Talon and Griot reports these findings to her through a hologram. When building this hologram, our main challenge was how to communicate so many critical pieces of information involving so many characters in a small hologram.
INITIAL DESIGN FOR THE SEA LEOPARD HOLOGRAM
To do this, our team turned to a dot-based information system, representing the Talokan soldiers with blue dots and Wakandan’s with green dots. This shows where each soldier is, whether that is on the ship or in the ocean.
CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT FOR THE SEA LEOPARD HOLOGRAM
We also utilized the color red to display especially critical information, including the power outages and the engine failure. These three elements combined show the ship’s failures, the amount of soldiers and their placements.
FINAL SEA LEOPARD HOLOGRAM
TRIBAL GLASS UI
Another UI element we contributed was the glass UI that Queen Ramonda uses to help fight Namor when he attacks Wakanda.
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE TRIBAL GLASS UI
These smart glass windows help Ramonda virtually pilot a fleet of ships to help Wakandans escape and fight Namor.
CONCEPTS FOR THE TRIBAL GLASS UI
These screens are entirely gesture based, operated by raising, turning and moving hands. The smart glass only offers Ramonda necessary information, since she does not need the detailed UI bits that Shuri needs while doing her calculations.
FINALIZED DESIGN FOR THE TRIBAL GLASS UI
CONCEPTUALIZING THE HYDROBOMB
Moving out of Wakanda, our team also conceptualized the Hydrobomb for the Talokan soldiers. The Hydrobomb is a unique weapon that belongs solely to the Talokan. This weapon is a bomb with water inside of it. When it explodes, it can fill and flood a room. Marvel Studios asked our team to figure out what this bomb could look like and how it could explode.
Since the cube is very small and has to be carried in a bag or on someone’s person, we had to develop ways to fit an entire lake’s worth of water into this cube. We experimented with water compression, air distortion and condensing moisture from the air. We eventually developed a bomb where the water almost appears somewhat solid inside of a glass bomb. When the bomb activates, the water decompresses and explodes out, instantly flooding an area.
In Black Panther, our team designed recognizable locators throughout the film. These locators show text flickering from Wakandan to English. We didn’t want to just redo this for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. We wanted it to be new and fresh. We spent time picking new fonts and options, allowing the locators to be reminiscent from the first film but with a new twist.
However, we took our locators a step further by utilizing Mayan symbols when the Talokan were involved. Instead of translating from Wakandan to English, these locators would translate from Mayan symbols into English. To do this, we worked with Dr. Gerardo Aldana, who is a Professor of the Mayan Language. We spoke with Dr. Aldana and he explained how the language works and what the symbols mean so we could understand it. We provided him the locations, and he helped write the locators out in Mayan symbols. Then we took that and animated them and translated them into English.
Culture and representation are so important, and we wanted each of these locators to be accurate to the Mayan language and history. They are not random symbols, but rather, they hold great significance and meaning. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever celebrates a whole new culture, and we wanted to represent them, as well as the Wakandans, through our locators.
There are several languages spoken in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Because of that, we spent a lot of time focusing on font, color, size and placement so the audience could understand who was speaking, what language it was and what it meant. Each color represents a different language to help differentiate between what is being spoken.
As a final wrap on this project, the incredible team at Marvel Studios sent us a signed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever poster, celebrating this 2 year long collaboration to bring each and every element of Wakanda to life!
Conceptualizing and designing the technology of Wakanda for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was an incredible 2 year collaboration between our team at Perception and the team at Marvel Studios. It was a creative challenge to take all of the technology we crafted for Black Panther and elevate it to new heights in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Our team enjoyed revisiting the culture and the world of Wakanda in our tech design and in the end title sequence that we crafted to honor Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa. You can learn more about how we filmed and designed the end title sequence for this film in our Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Title Sequence case study.