(Spoiler alert: Seriously, DO NOT READ on if you haven’t seen “Avengers: Infinity War.”)
“Avengers: Infinity War” climaxes with a snap, and a white flash, as Thanos finally achieves his goal of eliminating half of all life in the universe. It’s quickly become an iconic moment, but the visual effects team behind the film originally wanted to include a deep cut Marvel Comics Easter egg that would have tied the scene back to an equally iconic moment in the source material.
Kelly Port, VFX Supervisor at Digital Domain, told TheWrap the team wanted to insert a graphic of Thanos’ finger-snap as it played out in the 1991 Marvel miniseries “Infinity Gauntlet,” on which “Infinity War” is loosely based. Meaning that in the moment Thanos snapped his fingers together, the word “snap!” would’ve actually appeared on movie screens for a split second.
“As a fun aside, we explored the idea of lifting the actual graphic from the frame of the comic showing the snap, the little yellow action triangles for a single frame of the moment of the snap. They appreciated the idea but didn’t ultimately go for it.”
Here are the original panels:
Easter egg aside, Port told TheWrap the creating actual scene went pretty smoothly.
“Weirdly enough, you would think this particular shot… this particular critical moment, would have a tremendous amount of pressure and back and forth to get it just right, but it actually went pretty smoothly,” he said. “I asked the compositor on this particular shot how it felt to be working on one of the most important shots in Marvel history. A shot representing the culmination of ten years of story. No pressure!”
20-plus people worked on building Thanos to get him just right, given the complexity and the amount of time Thanos is on screen in “Infinity War.”
“You saw how many close-ups and subtle dramatic and heavy moments Thanos went through that really needed to come across,” said Port. “We spent the extra time and attention on shots like that — Our animation and modeling teams would go in and refine these performances with shot by shot, frame by frame attention.“
He added, “The essence of the original Thanos design stayed true to comics and previous films, but of course, we had to improve the photorealistic nature of the character. We were better able to address the realism as technology has improved and better lighting and rendering solutions have become available. But just as important, if not critical, was that we had the ability to capture the subtle details of Brolin’s performance and make sure they come through on Thanos. So many people say that they have sympathy with him or at least an understanding of his motivation. He’s a complex character — that’s all in the writing and Brolin’s performance, so it was essential to get it right given the amount of screen time had. This had to work in order for the movie to work.“
With new technology that’s become available and the improvement of light in motion capture, Port said he hasn’t done a project like this before.
“We started with an initial Thanos proof-of-concept test a few months before the live-action shooting began. We began developing and refining the character for the film which probably took another year. Even as we were finishing shots, we would still be refining, depending on the requirements of a specific shot or sequence,” he explained. “There were little tweaks here and there with costumes, the gauntlet, muscle simulations and skeletal considerations, and how the muscles move over his unique bone structure. All in, this probably took us two years.”
He added, “The techniques Digital Domain used for the facial capture have not been used before. We employed machine learning algorithms in several steps of the process, in addition to a lot of blood sweat and tears, but the end result was that we were able to capture an incredible amount of Brolin’s subtle performance and apply it to Thanos.”
Given the positive reaction of Thanos’ appearance, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the same VFX team worked on the uber-villain for “Avengers 4,” set for release next summer. But nothing has been set in stone.
“It would be an honor, obviously,” Port said.
Marvel did not immediately reply to TheWrap’s request for comment.