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Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War is not just a narrative epic – bringing together more than 20 established characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but also a remarkable visual effects feat. The depiction of Thanos, brought to life via Josh Brolin’s motion capture performance, is revolutionary all by itself, and it’s a blockbuster that transports audiences from an alien-invaded Greenwich Village, to the expanses of Wakanda, to the vastness of the cosmos.
It was a job that took an immense effort to create by teams of post-production artists, and I recently learned from Visual Effects Supervisor Dan DeLeeuw that there are only 80 shots in Avengers: Infinity War that don’t include some form of CGI:
What will happen is the [Russo] bros will work on the movie with Jeff Ford, our editor, and then we'd come in on the weekends and then we'd scrub through the film and see what they've done, and see what's tweaked and what's not. And so during the scrub, if we hit a shot that doesn't have a number on it yet - because the number means there's visual effects on it - if you hit a shot and there's no number on it, you kind of check it out and make sure there's no effects, and we're like, 'Yeah!' We got to cheer like 80 times. Eighty out of... well, there's 2,623 visual effects shots in the film.
To save you from doing the math yourselves, that’s 97% of a film with a two hour and forty minute runtime.
I had the chance to dig into the making of Avengers: Infinity War earlier this week when I had the pleasure of sitting down with not only Dan DeLeeuw, but also directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and visual effects supervisors Russell Earl and Kelly Port on the Walt Disney lot in Burbank, California. Understanding the breadth of the work done by the teams making the film, I asked what material in the movie didn’t include CGI elements, and the short answer to the question was “not much.”
As extreme as it may be, this ratio at the same time isn’t overly surprising, given that we’re talking about a movie filled with visual effects-manipulated/created characters – including Thanos, Rocket, Groot, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian, Eitri, and Hulk. However, it’s even just scenes with those characters, and those set on other planets that required work from Industrial Light and Magic, Digital Domain, and Weta Digital. Even small little details in the film required their assistance.
A perfect example of this came up with Joe Russo was searching for an example of a shot without CGI. His suggestion was one of the earliest shots of Scarlet Witch in the movie – where she is featured on a bed in a hotel room in Edinburgh, Scotland – but Dan DeLeeuw pointed out even one of those shots required visual effects. This is because the wide angle featured a production crane in one of the hotel windows, and it had to be digitally erased.
There really is no exaggerating the incredible importance and influence of visual effects on Avengers: Infinity War, and the uniqueness of the situation was something that Dan DeLeeuw stressed. He admitted that sometimes the aforementioned numbers in a discussion of a blockbuster can be a bit overstated, but that’s not the case with the 2018 Marvel Studios film. Said DeLeeuw,
That was the thing about this movie, because a lot of times those numbers, you know, you can kind of inflate those numbers. But this movie was no joke. All those shots are real shots. It's just not small stuff. There's a handful of really complicated shots.
Rightfully so, Avengers: Infinity War is nominated for an Academy Award this year in the Best Achievement in Visual Effects category – with Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, and Daniel Sudick specifically up for the prize. Given our collective affinity for the feature here at CinemaBlend, it’s a part of the show we’re very much interested in, as we’re curious if it will result in Marvel Studios winning its first Oscar. We’ll find out the results when the Academy Awards air on February 24th – and before then you can rewatch Infinity War on all home media platforms, including digital, 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD.