Smart Hulk mixture for Marvel Avengers: Endgame

 

As a culmination of ten years of movies, Avengers: Endgame delivers the final piece of the Infinity Saga for Marvel.  The Smart Hulk character was one of the key CG characters built especially for the production by major VFX studios Framestore and ILM.

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The Avengers team gathering at the Quantum Gate in the hangar base, itself a tapestry of CG environments of exterior and interiors. All images © 2019 Marvel Studios.

Framestore was tasked with breathing life into a Smart Hulk, a mix of both mild-mannered Bruce Banner and the big green Hulk. Both studios worked under production visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw from Marvel. Balancing the human performance of Mark Ruffalo and the seismic power of the Hulk required a deft mix of cutting-edge tech and Framestore’s hugely impressive animation.  The result is a striking fully-CG character whose performance is completely unique.

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Keyframe animation was employed for over 60 Smart Hulk shots, with headcam footage of Ruffalo’s performance from the shoot used for reference. This performance was key for the animators on the film, “it was absolutely about matching Mark Ruffalo,” explains Max Soloman, Animation Supervisor. “His face is very expressive. Every nuance, every little twitch, and eye dart, a slight curl of the lip and muscle tension needed to be translated.”

 

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In fact, the facial build for Smart Hulk was a giant challenge. “There was a lot of work involved as their face shapes are so different,” says Framestore’s VFX Supervisor Stuart Penn.  Hulk is massive, his mouth proportionally bigger, his eyes are sunken with deeper sockets. Tiny changes to his face had a huge effect on the performance. “A new subset of facial shapes was built to enable the animators to achieve more complex and nuanced expression and give them more control in the animation. This was combined with a micromovement pass generated by machine learning from footage of Ruffalo’s performance.”

 

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Framestore delighted in being part of the creative team behind the VFX of Avengers: Endgame: the epic conclusion to the Infinity Saga. From bringing Smart Hulk into the MCU, revisiting Rocket the raccoon, building Quantum suits and helmets based on Ant Man, to the environments and futuristic FX, the film presented a variety of different challenges that the team absolutely enjoyed working on.

 

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Written by Paul Hellard

Freelance journalist. Also videographer, photographer, cyclist and lover of all things sustainable, creative and digital.

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