Completing over 300 VFX shots, Framestore certainly bit off a nice chunk of the VFX work in Avengers Endgame.
From helping to breathe life into a ‘Smart Hulk, to completely replacing costumes, whaaat? These guys certainly know their stuff. So it’s no wonder they ended up working on such an amazing project.
Framestore were the original developers of the character Rocket back in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume one, giving him a slight upgraded for Vol. 2. For Avengers Endgame, Framestore have given him yet another upgrade. This time, making him a little greyer. Care needed to be taken not to overdo any tweaks to the character. Too much and he ran the risk of looking like a totally different character.
They also gave his suit a refresh, adding goggles and a red scarf.
So, let’s talk about the Quantum suits, made of high-tech armoured cloth and carbon fibre that we see them wearing to travel through the quantum realm. Here’s a fun fact, they weren’t even wearing them! Nope, for these shot, the actors just wore their everyday, casual, superhero costumes.
“Why?”, you may ask… Well, we do too. The most logical explanations are; timing, flexibility and convenience (weirdly).
Having CGI costumes meant that they weren’t locked into any specific design nor did they have to wait for costumes to be made. They could incorporate the nano-tech effects more seamlessly and seeing as they’d need to create full photoreal costumes for transitions anyway, just tracking them to the actors for the rest of the scenes makes sense. That would be my guess anyway…
So, reasons aside, to achieve this, Framestore built digital doubles for each character. They then set about building the suit based on concepts provided by Marvel Studios. Their Ant-Man esque helmets that look like they were made from a mix of nanobots and Guardians tech look pretty good.
However, personally, I think they could have improved it slightly by adding a subtle head jolt from the inertia of the movement to really link it to the head in the shot.
Here’s a really roughly put together shot with his head jolting verses not jolting. Let us know in the comments which one you think looks more natural.
Now, brushing aside this costume swap, been there, done that.
Let’s talk about what Framestore did to bring back the Quantum Van from Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Framestore used scans from the original to build the whole model on.
They used Nuke to get it to look as close to the original as possible and then decided which elements needed to be 3D.
For the quantum effects, they used a mixed of optical FX; aberrations, colour breakup, heat distortions, and even their own blue plasma.
For the big Quantum Gate time travel portal, this effect was magnified
And had to integrate with the Avengers shrinking and falling down into it. To achieve this they had to use a lot more optical effects, such as; smoke, heat distortions, aberrations, atmospherics, time echoes and lens-tilts with a few flares for good measure in order to key it all together nicely.
Framestore also worked on the super realistic looking smart Hulk
To get the ball rolling, they developed their machine-learning technology to learn source footage of Mark Ruffalo for it to then create a solve in order to match it in animation.
With this technique, they were able to create a first pass of animation that would help filmmakers decide on the edit in order to begin adding face-shapes to use in the rig.
The build of his face was challenging you can’t just pop on a hulk head with the face cut out.
as Ruffalo and Hulk’s face shapes are so different. For example, Hulk has a bigger mouth and deeper eye sockets. So tiny changes to Ruffalo’s face had a huge effect on smart Hulk’s performance.
So, a new subset of facial shapes was created with more complex and nuanced expressions to give animators that extra bit of control that they needed.
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