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How to effect awards-worthy visuals

TVBEurope asks Stuart Penn, VFX supervisor on Avengers: Endgame, about the film's Oscar nomination for visual effects

Please explain your role on Avengers: Endgame and what that involved.

I was VFX supervisor for Framestore’s work on Avengers: Endgame. We completed a wide range of VFX covering over 300 shots. The work included character performance animation on Smart Hulk and Rocket Raccoon, development of the Avengers Quantum suits, some complex time travel effects, holograms and detailed environments such as the Avengers Hangar environment, Asgard and Wakanda.

What technology did you use for your work on Avengers: Endgame, and how?

For Smart Hulk, we developed machine learning technologies to allow us to translate Mark Ruffalo’s performance on set on to our Smart Hulk facial rig. We also constructed a full set of anatomy for muscle simulations. For the Quantum Suits we used high-precision body tracks and cloth simulations to create the fully digital costumes. This also required using digital neck and hair replacement to assist with integration.

Why did you use that technology in particular, and how did it help you with your work on the film?

The machine learning used on Smart Hulk allowed us to quickly generate first passes of facial animation. This was especially useful for allowing us to deliver full rendered versions of Smart Hulk for the edit early in post. For the suits the body tracking ensured that we retained the actors’ performances while fully replacing their costumes. The cloth simulations were essential to give a variety of fabrics in the costume naturalistic motion. Digital neck replacements were needed where the costumes the actors were wearing covered areas that were left exposed by the design of the Quantum Suits.

What does it mean to your team that the film is nominated?

We are very proud of our work on Avengers: Endgame and are honoured to be nominated. It’s recognition for the hard work, dedication and attention to detail the team put into every aspect of the VFX on the film.

You can read more of TVBEurope’s Q&As with some of this season’s awards contenders in our latest issue.