One of the biggest challenges faced today by blockbuster films and hit television shows is maintaining secrecy. The more popular and anticipated something is, the greater the speculation and the more valuable nuggets of information and potential spoilers become. For Avengers: Infinity War, a movie that is the biggest milestone yet of a decade of universe-building in one of cinema's biggest franchise, that task is doubly difficult. A film of this size, with so many people working on it at all levels, requires a strategy to maintain secrecy. According to the film's VFX supervisor, Dan DeLeeuw, that meant divvying up the work and letting very few people know the whole story, as he explained:
It's an interesting process. It's something that... I was fortunate enough because of Thanos kind of running through the entire movie, a handful knew everything that was going to happen and I was fortunate to be one of them, which helped while designing everything and designing the shots. For the secrecy component of it, when we would work with the different special effects vendors, basically we would try to like, when we would award the work, it was something where we'd do it based on sequences. So each vendor would know what happens in their sequences, but not necessarily what would happen in someone else's sequence.
This sounds like a smart approach, and given the fact that Infinity War's biggest spoilers didn't leak before the movie released, I would say an effective one too. As VFX supervisor and one of the very lucky few people who knew the whole story, Dan DeLeeuw was able to make sure that the different VFX studios working on the film would each be doing something different. So in this fashion, lots of people had different parts of the story, but a limited number of people had the whole thing. Like giving sections of a puzzle to different groups with none of them knowing what the entire picture looks like until it all comes together. Or everyone got an Infinity Stone, but nobody could enjoy the full power of the gauntlet, if you prefer.
This strategy limited who knew what and how much, thereby reducing the amount of secrets that could theoretically get out from a single source. As far as how the visual effects jobs were actually broken up, Dan DeLeeuw also explained to ScreenRant:
For example, Framestore, they knew what would happen in the Battle of New York with Spidey and Ruffalo and Iron Man and Maw and Cull Obsidian, but they didn't really know what happens outside of that because it's on a need to know basis, I guess. But then a company like Digital Domain, they had done Vormir so they definitely knew what was happening with Gamora on Vormir, and they then did the bit with Thor at the end. It was all compartmentalized to who knew what and who had access to those shots. Not any visual effects vendor had the entire movie.
It is kind of cool how one VFX vendor would know one group or character's arc for part of the film without knowing the rest. On the one hand, that's way more information than the public knows, but it's still very compartmentalized, as Dan DeLeeuw said. Marvel seems to have taken a similar approach with the actors and the scripts, not letting anyone know anything until they absolutely needed to.
What's neat about this approach is that it kind of parallels the fan experience. Prior to Avengers: Infinity War, all we had to go on was the trailers and out of order puzzle pieces that we weren't sure how they all fit together, and we had to draw conclusions from that information. There were also major pieces missing from the marketing, notably the stuff on Vormir that Digital Domain worked on. For the many VFX artists who worked on the film, they knew certain pieces of the film very well and had more to go on than fans, but still didn't know everything.
You can check out the hard work of all those VFX artists again, because Avengers: Infinity War is now available on digital and home video. For movies still heading to theaters this year, check out our release guide.