PRODUCTION COMPANY: Marvel Studios
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
For “Avengers: Infinity War,” Marvel reached out to us to participate in a test to create Thanos with Josh Brolin. Ultimately, our studio, led by VFX supervisor Kelly Port, was awarded a total of nine intimate sequences featuring the beloved super-villain. Our Thanos asset was also used throughout the film and the character drove over 40 minutes of screen time in the film. Approximately 513 shots were finaled by and just over 340 Digital Domain artists, supervisors, facility and production support. The total scope of our work included sequences such as Thanos’ character throughout (action scenes in 3rd act), the Ark Ship Massacre, Knowhere Betrayal, Meditation chamber, Torture chamber, Vormir Stone Quest, Zehoberi Flashback (young Gamora), Waystation, End Battle in Wakanda with Thanos and Thanos’ Yurt.
Our team handled motion capture for Josh Brolin’s body and facial movements. Mocap cameras were integrated into the live-action set. Josh wore a Mocap suit, a helmet with cameras and motion capture dots to capture his performance. Having the mocap cameras integrated into the set helped Josh deliver a more organic performance as he would be playing against live characters and it was critical that his movements and look be very realistic.
Due to the highly emotional nature of Thanos’ performance, it was crucial to translate Josh’s performance to the character as best as possible. Using machine learning and our proprietary Masquerade software we were able to truly enhance the actor’s facial performance making Thanos one of the most photorealistic CG characters of all time. We built a model of how Josh’s face should move and applied that to Thanos’ face. This allowed animators to adjust those movements if needed. We built a machine learning system that captured a super high-resolution image of the actor’s face at a camera frame rate of 45-50 frames per second.
The facial capture using the head-mounted rig captured everything down to the smallest details including wrinkles and curvatures of Josh’s face. Our animation team then enhanced the crucial detail of the eyes and lips because dot markers cannot be applied to these areas as with the rest of the face. Our animation team took care in molding these areas to get Josh’s eye folds, wrinkle lines and subtle twitches translated as accurately as possible onto Thanos’ face resulting in an 8-foot purple villain that is believable and emotive.
Our work on Thanos resulted in Oscar and BAFTA nominations for “Avengers: Infinity War” and also won VES awards for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature and Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature.