Infinity War VFX: The Josh Puppet

© Disney

This small piece of nerdery from the visual effects process of Avengers: Infinity War struck me as weird, poetic and interesting:

“We used an actor puppet as part of our process of solving the facial performance,” said [Weta Digital Visual Effects Supervisor] Matt Aitken. “We had Josh Brolin’s face-cam footage, which we tracked. In the past, we would have taken that tracked motion and solved it straight onto the CG character. But, at that point, you’re always guessing how accurately you’ve captured the actor’s original performance. How much of what we’re seeing on Thanos are inaccuracies that have crept into our processes? So we introduced this intermediary stage, which was a digital version of Josh Brolin. We would first solve our captured performance onto that, so we could see how accurate it was. Once we were happy with that, we did a simple migration of that motion from the Josh puppet to the Thanos puppet. (…).”

from the article by Jody Duncan in Cinefex 159

Marvel Studios’ Global Pipeline

Ever wonder how Marvel manages to deliver their movies on time despite tight schedules and 2.500+ effects shots? Executive producer Victoria Alonso explains:

We’ve had anywhere from 12 vendors to 24 vendors, which is madness. It’s a challenge, but when you have that many shots, you have to divide the work among many different teams. If we relied on one vendor, we would choke that vendor. And by having visual effects teams from around the world, in different time zones, we essentially get a 36-hour day. That extra time allows us to constantly feed the beast.

VFX Supervisor Jake Morrison goes into more detail in a different interview:

On Thor: Ragnarök we had 18 vendors, so our day would start with calls to Germany and then sweep right across the planet chasing the sun until we finished in Australia. The tools that have been built to allow for all this data to slosh around the world on a nightly basis are breathtaking.

Both interviews can be found in Cinefex issue 158.

Quotes of Quotes (XXXI) – James Mangold Thinks Canon Sucks and You’re Part of the Problem

Listening to a recent episode of Jeff Goldsmith’s Podcast The Q&A with Logan-director James Mangold, I came across this exchange. Host Jeff Goldsmith can’t help himself as he asks about continuity issues between Logan and the other X-Men-Movies and thereby prompts Mangold to go on a juicy rant about the superhero movie industrial complex.

Jeff Goldsmith: Obviously there was a timeline reset in Days of Future Past which Simon Kinberg wrote, and he’s the producer of this film as well. I’m just curious: How does this fit in the timeline? Because in X-Men: Apocalypse, there was a different Caliban and I’m just curious if this an offshoot, a different timeline …

James Mangold: I have no idea. As you can tell by the way I’m sparring with you on these questions, I don’t care. Meaning that I think that stuff is in the way of making good movies, not in support of it. It would be as if I’m making movies for the Catholic church and I have to pass some kind of papal approval for what happens to Jesus in this episode. It’s just ludicrous …

I’m just curious where it fits in.

I know, but your’re part of the industry, when you ask those questions, of maintaining the sense of ‘Did you break canon or stick with canon?’. In fact, I think canon sucks.

I was just trying to find out, where it was in the canon.

Nowhere. The reality as a marketeer would be that we very carefully positioned it beyond all the existing movies, so it’s up to you. My feeling is: I want to have a relationship with the audience, not with internet crazy factcheckers with a hundred episodes of shit accusing me of getting something wrong. It’s the actual audience that I am most concerned with and that they exist in the immediate, taking in the movie. And unless it’s wildly contradicting something that they just saw in another movie, it’s not of concern to me. (…) My own arrogance or spiciness with you about these questions is partly about how you get the movie made. The gravitational pull between the kind of internet industry of superhero movie worship, the actual industry itself of selling these things, the merchandising machine, the toy manufacturer, the comic books, the rival companies, the summer dating, all of it is not a friend to movie making. It’s a friend to corporate money making. And part of my own defense to making a movie and not just a commodity, is to have a lot of hostility towards a lot of the value systems, some of which fans bring to the material, where they’re actually serving corporations and not themselves, in my opinion. They’re actually demanding the movies work as a box set. They all can then be bought and sold so that the action figures will work consistently from one movie to another, the animated Saturday morning one can match the — they’re actually demanding something that helps the companies sell and ram all these products at the same time. It’s much harder for the companies to make money off eight different visions of what Batman could be, but for me that’s phenomenally more interesting.

Listen to the whole episode here. The quoted passage starts about 46 minutes in.

Quotes of Quotes (XXX) – Joe Russo about the Social Future of Movies and TV

“Quotes of Quotes”-Stammgäste Joe und Anthony Russo haben bei einem Q&A zu Civil War, das im Podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour vorkam, wieder mal bewiesen, dass sie klüger sind als ihre Filme. Joe Russo antwortete auf die Frage, warum sie vom Fernsehen ins Kino gewechselt sind zu einer Zeit als viele andere gute Regisseure den umgekehrten Weg gehen:

Why we stayed in television so long is because the independent scene we chased in the 90s was dying in the feature space. They started hiring those voices to work in television. For years TV was shackled by the Nielsen Ratings. A great way to make curmudgeonized television is to try to cater to advertising dollars. Once the Nielsen Ratings started to die with the advent of TiVo and cable where there was less of a monetary metric for TV shows, you started to get more and more interesting programming. TV, now at the advent of Netflix and Amazon, which are cash-rich companies, when you look at their valuation compared to the valuation of NBC, it’s massive. Netflix is ten times as rich of a television studio. The only metric they have for their TV shows is whether or not it incites a cultural conversation. It has nothing to do with numbers anymore, it has nothing to do with advertising dollars, so the content is getting more and more aggressive in tone, more experimental, smarter, funnier, more interesting. (…)

What’s happening in the feature space, because TV is becoming so interesting, everybody is trying to make this cinematic universe, where they’ve got big branded IP, because to get you out of your house – because you can just sit there and binge-watch House of Cards or Game of Thrones or Season 2 of Mr Robot – where you’re gonna spend a lot of money to go to a theater, for a babysitter, to buy dinner, 200 Dollars by the time you get home, they’ve got to give you an experience that you can’t get on television. So it’s spectacle cinema. It’s also interwoven stories. I think, why Marvel is a bit of the future of what’s gonna happen to the feature space, is because we’re all giving an emotional investment to these characters that spans years of our lives. And that incites a cultural conversation. That’s the most important commodity moving forward: Are you talking about it? Who are you talking about it with? How much are you talking about it? (…)

So I think you’ll see, over the next ten years, that movies are going to move into a grander, more event-filled, interwoven storytelling direction. And I think you’re gonna see TV getting more and more experimental and you’re gonna see movies that traditionally would have shown up in a cinema show up on Netflix or Amazon.

Die entscheidende Frage ist: Wie wird sich das Kino als Raum und Ort des Filmerlebnisses dieser Entwicklung anpassen? Das Thema habe ich ja auch mit Lucas im Podcast schon gestreift – also werde ich vermutlich bald auch hier etwas Längeres dazu schreiben.

Quotes of Quotes (XXIX) – Paul Bettany über die Vorteile eines Marvel-Vertrags

Während ich Stückchen für Stückchen zusammenschreibe, wie das Marvel Cinematic Universe auf verschiedenen Ebenen funktioniert, habe ich ja schon öfter erwähnt, dass dazu unter anderem die langfristigen Verträge gehören, die Schauspieler abschließen müssen. Bisher hatte ich das ganze von Schauspielerseite immer eher als ein Korsett gesehen, aber Paul Bettany hat im neuesten Nerdist Podcast etwas Interessantes gesagt (bei 41:50):

It’s absolutely a blessing […] and it’s the first time in my career that I knew what I would be doing in a year’s time. That’s a fantastic piece of security in a life that doesn’t have much in that way.

Bettany und Hardwick sprechen viel darüber, wie es ist, als Schauspieler erfolgreich und dann auch mal weniger erfolgreich zu sein. Marvel-Verträge binden einen zwar für eine gewisse Zeit, aber dafür hat man eben auch Jobsicherheit, ähnlich wie in einer Fernsehserie, was ja praktisch ist, wenn man kein Superstar ist. Das ganze Interview lohnt sich.

Quotes of Quotes (XXVIII) – J. J. Abrams on the Fan Director’s Dilemma

When I recently wrote about modern franchise movies showing signs of fan fiction, Star Wars, of course, weighed heavily on my mind. About a year ago, I had already expressed my fear that The Force Awakens might end up a sort of Star Wars simulacrum, but J. J. Abrams’ answer to an audience question at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago appeased me somewhat. Here’s what he said:

I watched Star Wars with my parents, too. It means very much to me as it means to many of you, so I feel like the only answer I can give you is: We love it, we care about it so much. Our job is to not be blinded by that, meaning you can’t just be a fan and then make a movie because you’re a fan. It’s not enough, you gotta really say: What’s the story? I’m gonna tell you from personal experience, when you’re directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, it doesn’t make the scene good. Now, it’s bitchin’ that it’s on the Millennium Falcon, you want scenes on the Millennium Falcon. If I can make a suggestion, direct scenes on the Millennium Falcon, it’s hugely helpful. But it doesn’t make the scene automatically good. So you have to ask – it’s literally Storytelling 101 – what do the characters want? Who are they? What makes this interesting? What’s unexpected? It has to be fun, it has to be scary. The power of what has come before is so infectious and so deep that you have to harness it, but you can’t be blinded by it. And it’s a constant thing, working with [screenwriter] Larry [Kasdan] and [producer] Kathleen [Kennedy], there were always checks and balances, saying, “That’s really cool, but what does it mean?” You know? Why are we doing this?

Quotes of Quotes (XXVII) – David Ehrlich on Marvel Movies

Film Critic David Ehrlich recently sized up the Marvel movies in the “Slate” Movie Club. Even though I liked the films as such, I cannot say I disagree, especially on Winter Soldier.

The thing that struck me most about superhero movies this year was their desperate need for validation, and how eager superhero movie fans were to help them achieve it. It began with the hilarious notion that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller (let alone a relevant one) just because the film’s plot explicitly involves politics. Also, Robert Redford. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, of course, a Marvel movie, and that’s a category that is mutually exclusive to all others. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a space opera, it’s a Marvel movie. Thor: The Dark World isn’t a … um … hmmm … well, whatever it isn’t, it’s definitely a Marvel movie. The studio has become a genre unto itself, one that banally flattens whatever other modes are absorbed into its spectacle.

The assembly line mentality that snuffed out Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man can be felt in every overdetermined story beat and unctuously endearing character (Groot gimmicked his way out of trouble, but Rocket Raccoon was my ’Nam), and so whenever anyone suggests that Marvel movies are even remotely “weird,” it always sounds to me like they’re trying to convince themselves. An adorable humanoid tree voiced by Vin Diesel in a role that neatly fulfills the exact same function as the Hulk in The Avengers? How will America be able to handle it!?
– David Ehrlich, “Slate” Movie Club

Quotes of Quotes (XXVI) – Markus and McFeely on “Agent Carter” within the MCU

How much of the bigger Marvel Universe are you weaving in?

[Screenwriter/Co-Creator Christopher] McFeely: We can’t help but weave in the Marvel Universe. We’ve been at this for a few years now. All of our reference points are within the universe. We need a scientist character. We didn’t go very far to come up with Anton Vanko, just as a very small part scientist character. If you know what he is, or what he goes on to be, that’s interesting. If not, he’s the Russian scientist.

[Screenwriter/Co-Creator Stephen] Markus: Also, working in the past where you already know the future — obviously, we saw ninety-something old Peggy — there are references being made, whether you do them on purpose or not. We know Hydra eventually took over S.H.I.E.L.D. When somebody says something hopeful about the future in Agent Carter, that is going to be tinged with the fact we know the future didn’t work out that well. There are plenty of little indicators of the future going forward, and the legacy of both the S.S.R. and Howard’s technology that will have ramifications later.

It’s almost like the M. Night Shyamalan curse, though. Viewers always expect some crazy twist in his movies. With Marvel, people anticipate all these tie-ins to other projects.

McFeely: I suppose it has the red box on the front. It’s a Marvel project, so they are going to expect something. But we’ve really tried to make the best show, about an interesting character in a world where there are some glowing objects and where a superhero has died.

Markus: We are also slightly freed up from that interconnection by the period. On “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Captain America and Iron Man and everybody are running around in that same world and same time period. They could theoretically show up at the door. There’s nobody around during “Agent Carter.” You can’t have an end-of-the-credits tag where Nick Fury shows up and talks to Peggy. He hasn’t been conceived yet. We’re a little cocooned.
– from an Interview at


Quotes of Quotes (XXV)

You start out imitating your heroes, and the way you fuck up becomes your style.
– attributed to Elvis Costello by Too Many Cooks creator Chris Kelly in “Entertainment Weekly

I have heard tons of supposedly inspiring quotes about “finding your voice” for writers and other creatives, but this is the most brilliant way anyone has ever put it. I could, however, not verify if Costello is really the source. Take it as apocryphal.

Quotes of Quotes (XXIV) – Glenn Kenny on the Film Criticism Landscape

But in terms of the film critic landscape, it’s just weird that these people get into these arguments. There’s all this weird drama. Like, people are talking about being afraid to say bad things about “Boyhood?” Who the fuck is afraid to say bad things about “Boyhood?” Who gives a shit? People say, “We need a culture that embraces dissent.” It’s not dissent! Dissent is… (impersonates old Russian Grandmother) “Dissent is when you’re living in Soviet Russia and you’re put under house arrest!” Big fucking deal, you have a different opinion. We don’t have to embrace different opinions, it’s called arguing. It’s what we do. “Oh, poor me, I’m the only person who didn’t like ‘Boyhood.’” Just get the fuck off the cross, man, we need the wood.
– Glenn Kenny, Film Critic, interviewed by Greg Cwik for “Criticwire“,
probably inspired by Kenneth Turan