Marvel Studios employed groundbreaking new technology created by DisneyResearch|Studios to reinvent Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in Avengers: Endgame, which for the first time merges Bruce Banner and the Other Guy as a smart Hulk.
“In this incarnation, Banner has reconciled with the Hulk and has become a merged character. He is the best of both worlds, with the intelligence of Banner and the brawn of Hulk.”
Visual effects supervisor Russell Earl and the team at Industrial Light & Magic used the DRS-created Anyma, birthed in 2015 and developed in the years since, to depict a photorealistic Hulk who, more than ever, exhibited the human features of actor Ruffalo.
“The word contains ‘animation,’ but ‘anima’ in Latin also means ‘soul,’ and that’s what we wanted to get to,” explained principal research scientist Thabo Beeler. “We wanted to capture the soul of the actor.”
Building on award-winning predecessor Medusa — used to capture facial movements when creating Hulk and Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War — Anyma takes that technology a step further, allowing the artists to “set up cameras that are farther away, so actors can actually move around and they can truly perform,” Beeler said.
“It’s very flexible, because it leverages the shapes you acquire with Medusa, and through this, it builds a very specific digital puppet of the actor.”
Senior research scientist Derek Bradley adds such developments means Anyma is “defining the next generation of performance capture.”
“Typically, such innovations build on top of each other. They’re built on experience, and one idea leads to the next one,” explained Markus Gross, vice president of Research. “All the experience and the expertise Thabo, Derek, and their team collected during the designing and the conceiving of Medusa inspired them to create Anyma.”
“The wonderful performance delivered by Mark Ruffalo was subtle and nuanced,” Earl added.
“Mark has very distinct facial movements and a subtle asymmetry that make him unique. This in turn required a higher level of fidelity in our facial solves. We started with the robust facial system in place at ILM, but after seeing the initial results from Anyma, we felt it could be instrumental in achieving this higher level of fidelity and provide more control over the ultimate solved capture data, which our artists could process using our proprietary retargeting system, and apply to our Hulk character model.”
Further advancements will come as Anyma is currently being integrated into other Disney productions by ILM. Projects developed by the special effects house include Disney’s own upcoming Aladdin, The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Far From Home.
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