One of the toughest things about covering visual effects can be getting great VFX imagery to display with a story. There’s often a lengthy approvals process, and sometimes film and TV distributors just want to keep certain things under wraps. That can make it hard to produce interesting stories; in visual effects, behind the scenes images and videos tell so much of the process.
But lately, I’ve started noticing that many actors, directors and filmmakers have been posting a bunch of fun on-set and often VFX-related pics and clips to their social media accounts. We’re talking actors on greenscreens, in mocap suits, being scanned, or otherwise interacting with the teams behind the visual effects shots they’ve been working on.
What I love about these postings, too, is occasionally they’ll hint at the VFX work to come, often months down the track. It’s fun to compare the original posting with what made it into the movie. So, come with me as I explore some behind the scenes frivolity on several upcoming and recently released films and shows.
Deadpool 2 is still a year away, launching in June 2018, but actor Josh Brolin has been teasing his Cable make-up in Instagram postings.
Insanity on the brink. Face is morphing into something machine, fierce, hair sliced, arm machined, bulged. Where is Deadpool?!? Looking. Looking. All I got are these two…molding me, prodding, turning me into something hard. @bcorso #mikesmithson #deadpool #ivebeencabled #cableswole @prevailactivewear
The Untitled Han Solo film may have lost its original directors, but Ron Howard quickly stepped in. He’s active on Twitter and has already posted pics from the set, including this look at an on-set hyperspace projection. That also appears to be ILM VFX supe Rob Bredow on the far left.
Avengers: Infinity War is probably shaping up to be one of the most anticipated films of 2018 (look out for it in May). The Russo Brothers have a fun Instagram account, and one posting features them on a mocap stage with the caption ‘Rehearsal’. There was some speculation that the suited performer is Josh Brolin (who plays Thanos), but I’m really not sure. In any case, Brolin was back at it again, posting his own image showing the actor wearing a facial capture dots mask and referencing the ‘purple guy’.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson regularly calls out the visual effects crew working on his movies. In this post, he has a behind the scenes shot of Jason Liles in mocap gear playing an Albino silverback in Rampage, with VFX to come from Weta Digital. The film comes out April, 2018.
When my bestie, George (an extremely rare Albino silverback) gets hangry. Hungry + angry. Blown away by this technology. Makin' a cool movie for you guys here on set of #Rampage. When George (and a crocodile and grey wolf) are infected they grow at a rapid rate to gigantic proportions rampaging across the country. In this scene our Oscar winning Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings, Avatar etc) is using their ground breaking "performance capture" to bring "George" the Silverback to life. It uses over 30 special cameras to "see" the performance of my co-actor @tallie7487 allowing the digital artists to make the most realistic and badass animations possible. He's wearing a "facial capture helmet" and we can record every muscle movement and expression and emotion of George as goes on a rampage. Jason studied gorillas for months preparing for this performance capture role – facial expressions, sounds, habits and emotions. Spectacular performance. What a learning curve for me and such a pleasure to help produce these amazing artists who come to set daily to be game changers. More to come. Amazing technology. #WETADigital #Hydraulx #Rampage #MyHangryBestFriend
Peter Rabbit comes out in February 2018. Director Will Gluck posted a few behind the scenes images showing rabbit stand-ins and a bluescreen performer from the shoot in Australia. Animal Logic will be adding in the central characters in CG.
Dwayne Johnson also pays homage to the VFX team on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle during a greenscreen shoot for the film, releasing Christmas this year.
For #Jumanji we shot for two months in the Hawaiian jungles and mountainous terrain – now for our final weeks we bring our filming inside and come to huge sound stages where we shoot all our very technical VFX green screen action. Always so impressed with this process as we get to tap into the minds of some of the most brilliant visual effects filmmakers in the world. Now the only drawback to not being in the real jungle, is that I can't f*ck with Kevin Hart by throwing venomous spiders on him, but the payoff is when you see the movie you'll be transported to the amazing world of #Jumanji. #OnSet #SoundStages #GreenScreenVFX #IStillNeedToF#ckWithHart #MidnightRider #Jumanji
We don’t have to wait too long for Justice League, which is out November this year. Henry Cavill posted a behind the scenes video of him entering a mulit-camera array for scanning, presumably as part of his transformation into a CG Superman. And Zack Snyder posted a behind the scenes clip on Twitter of Aquaman at work (note the reference to Scanline VFX in the video).
If you’re following Thor: Ragnorak director Taika Waititi on Instagram, you know how subversive he can be. He also posts fun VFX pics, too. The film is heading our way in November. And the Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo, has some mocap suit action from the set of Ragnorak.
No stranger to disaster flicks, Dean Devlin is directing the October release, Geostorm, and here he shows some of the facial capture work being done for the film.
Excitingly, Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville (coming September) is relying on motion control miniatures and CG, which he highlights in this posting.
While making Valerian, director Luc Besson frequently posted images from the set, including looks at the blueescreen shoot and motion capture performers. Here’s some early posts from production showcasing his visit to Weta Digital for motion capture and in LA for Light Stage scans.
War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves is a big fan of Weta Digital, and why wouldn’t he be – they have knocked it out of the park on the Apes films so far. Here’s a few fun mocap-related Twitter posts from Reeves during production.
Spider-Man: Homecoming has just hit screens, and its lead Tom Holland has been busy with several behind the scenes on-set posts, including this one of him breakdancing in a mocap world. Plus director Jon Watts shared some facial capture frivolity.
Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is full of intensive stunt driving, and visual effects from Double Negative. Here the director gives a shout out to VFX supe Stuart Lashley.
Gal Gadot posted these behind the scenes of her fighting a stand-in performer for the ‘Zod monster’ from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and during a multi-camera array scan (possibly for Wonder Woman)
As each episode of American Gods aired, various people involved in the show posted some killer behind the scenes content on social media. This is included showrunner Bryan Fuller and producer Loretta Ramos, who occasionally gave an inside look at the ‘Sladar’ photogrammetry process, which was used by BUF to create the Godflesh effects.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales co-director Joachim Rønning thanked his ‘VFX dream team’ on the film. Recently, he’s also posted a behind the scenes clip from shooting.
Working with the amazing and wonderful Javier Bardem makes me this happy. I can only imagine how scary it is for an actor putting so much trust in VFX – knowing your character will stand or fall with visual elements that are added long after the cameras have stopped rolling. As a director however I loved the process, capturing Javier's wonderful performance then working with VFX supervisor Gary Brozenich and his team for a year seeing Capitán Salazar come alive ☠️ #potc5 @disneypirates #nowplaying
Sometimes on set, looking through the camera or watching a take on my monitor, it hits me that millions of people all over the world will see this – will see what the camera captures in this moment. It's a great sense of connection and truly the magic of movie making. This weekend Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales crossed the $700M mark at the global box office after five weeks of release ☠️ #potc5 @disneypirates #nowplaying
Director James Gunn has a ton of great behind the scenes VFX-related postings on his Instagram account for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.
Ah yes, another video of me doing the motion reference work for #BabyGroot. Believe it or not, I actually did three different versions of this dance at three different times. The first time was when I first wrote the scene, in my office st home, recorded by @simonlikes on his iPhone. That one was mostly so that I could remember the camera angles and camera movements I had in my head while writing than it did the actual dance. The second time was on set in Atlanta with a single camera and our visual effects team. That time it was doing the dance full out – there were some bits and pieces we used – but because Groot is moving and the camera was stable I was only able to travel for very short periods. And so we did it again, this time in Los Angeles, with many cameras lined down a long space so that I could actually do all the long walks and jumps Groot was doing. That's when this is from. For those of you who've asked, bits of the dance were ideas of things I had in my head, or things designed for the already planned camera movies, but most of it was free form made up on the spot. The other question I've gotten asked a lot is whether or not I was just doing my regular dancing or was it in character. The answer is of course in character – I think you can see clearly in this video I'm trying to move my body that works for a little tree more than what I'd be dancing like in a nightclub in L.A. This is of course all courtesy of the visual effects company @framestore who turned this stuff into something magical, creating one of the most impressive single shots ever. #GuardiansoftheGalaxyVol2 is still out in theaters so go see it again this weekend! #gotgvol2 #GotGPicoftheDay #fbf #flashbackfriday #friday #instagood #filmmaking #movie #movies #dancing #love
Contraxia love-bots waiting to take the stage. The bots were a mix of practical effects (seen here) and CGI. We'd fill in the green costume with CGI mechanical parts unable to be turned into a costume. In the close ups we'd also plasticize the face and sometimes add additional elements. The final piece of the puzzle was the great performances turned in by the women who played them, all of whom were totally committed to the sad robotic world of the Iron Lotus. #gotgvol2 #guardiansofthegalaxyvol2 #lovebots #GotGPicoftheDay
Early on in production on Kong: Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts had Terry Notary explore movement via motion capture. And the director posted a couple of other cool VFX pics, too.
Jane Levy played Meredith in Monster Trucks – here she is covered in phosphorescent paint presumably as part of a facial capture session for her digi-double in the film.
Director Scott Derrickson has some neat postings on Instagram showing behind the scenes on Doctor Strange.
The Shallows had an incredibly diverse amount of visual effects, from photoreal sharks to environment work and face replacements for surfing scenes. Here, actress Blake Lively posted a pic of herself in Lola’s scanning setup for the face replacement shots.
Tarzan featured some impressive CG animals, from apes to lions and more. Ace Ruele donned a tracking suit to help deliver the performances.
Bryan Singer hinted at some of the intense visual effects work in X-Men: Apocalypse, especially for Quicksilver, in his social media postings during production.
Jon Favreau kept things under wraps during production on The Jungle Book, but later posted a bunch of great behind the scenes VFX pics, including this one.
Actress Cara Delevingne posted these two images on Instagram back in 2015. They show her dressed in a motion capture suite, and possibly also covered in phosphorescent face paint (used in some facial capture methods). It’s not clear whether these are from her time on Suicide Squad, or for the upcoming Valerian, or something else, but they’re certainly nice behind the scenes images.
Ron Howard might not be able to post much during his time on the Untitled Han Solo movie (although, see above), but previously he’s been a key social media poster, including for In the Heart of the Sea, where clearly the director had a lot of fun.
OK, it’s from a little while ago (2014 in fact) but Michelle Rodriguez is here showing off some painted dots on her face presumably for some facial capture work – could this be on one of the Fast and Furious films?
Have you come across any images or videos like these on social media? Let me know, and I’ll add them here on vfxblog.