How to visualise a superhero

Hollywood visual effects head Monty Granito reveals how Proof prevized the 1970s thriller reality in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

How to visualise a superhero

Previz has become a critical element today as a story tool in the planning of action sequences in 3D

Previz is changing the way films are made. From the rhythm of a scene to the cost behind it, previz is helping filmmakers push their craft. All films may use previz in different ways, but Monty Granito says you can tell when a film uses good previz:

"The world should feel big, effortless and grounded. When people don’t use previz at all in movies, the world tends to be kept in certain rooms," he says. "The hardest thing to achieve in today's world is the balance between 'reality' and 'oh it's just a full CG shot'. For action or emotion to be truly dramatic it has to be believable."

How to visualise a superhero

Monty researched fighting technique Krav Maga for some inspiration... though maybe not for this image!

All this knowledge was brought to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a superhero movie that had to remain grounded in 1970s thriller reality. "We would get a couple of concept designs, the script, a brief of what the objective of the scene was, and then we would brainstorm with Dan Deleeuw, the VFX supervisor. Because we were embedded with Dan we could create and elevate on a daily basis," says Granito.

"Dan is a VFX supervisor who really understands camera and storytelling and was a comic nerd like me, so we were able to shape the action sequences with the directors from scratch. That doesn't help you in staying grounded – what worked for Captain America was keeping the cameras relatively simple and just pushing the action."

How to visualise a superhero

Getting the feel and textures of Cap's roots in 1940s America was a tricky process

When Captain America faced off against the Quinjet, Proof was given a concept image of Captain America throwing his shield into the wing. "The directors called for the feeling of Cap taking on a dragon. While my team was busy animating Falcon or making helicarriers blow up, this little sequence was my side project. The directors wanted Cap to brake hard and flip onto the jet, everything else in the sequence flowed naturally from that move."

How to visualise a superhero

Cap gets sucked into the action as Monty and his team develop a pivitol scene in Proof

Monty researched fighting technique Krav Maga for some inspiration. "In Krav Maga you use what is immediately in front of you to disable your opponent. Once Cap ended up in the centre of the jet with his shield it was obvious, in one motion he could disable the aircraft and escape," Monty says. "Within a week we had the sequence fleshed out to 75 per cent of what was shown in the movie. It’s fantastic, but it’s Cap being surgical, and skilled and grounded."

While it's good to see his work on screen, Monty is keen to emphasise teamwork in his role. "Because we were working collaboratively, we stayed grounded," he says.

Words: Monty Granito

Monty Granito is a previz supervisor with Proof. His next big project is Night At The Museum 3. This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 183.

Topics

3D