While it’s been over a year since we last saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe in theaters, Marvel and Disney+ have been making film-quality content on the small screen. Both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have delivered the kind of big budget special effects and action sequences usually reserved for movies. The high production values and cinematic scope of these series are seriously impressive.
In a new behind the scenes featurette, Marvel Entertainment’s Lorraine Cink talks with Eric Leven, the VFX Supervisor of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier about designing the series action sequences, as well as developing a signature flying style for Falcon. Leven breaks down the series’ opening scene, which sees Sam Wilson performing a mid-air rescue of an American soldier. Sam also fights wing-suit pilots who jump out of the plane with the hostage attached to them.
Leven walks viewers through the elaborate sequence, which starts with a previz (pre-visualization), a video game-style animated storyboard of the scene. The creative team then breaks down what stunts can be shot vs. what will be digitally created, and then works to create a seamless merge of the two. In the scene where Falcon lands on the plane, the stunts team developed a wire rig so that Mackie could “fly” in on a traveling harness and grab onto the real plane. The rest is digitally added in and refined for the scene.
As for the stunning scene of the wing-suit pilots flying through the canyon, Leven relied on real pilots who actually had stunt performer and actor Miles Brew (who played the hostage Captain Vassant) strapped to one of the pilots. “Anytime you can do something for real, you want to do it for real,” Leven added.
Leven also talked through Sam’s debut as Captain America, and his fight sequence in the finale of the series. The scene of Sam saving the truck full of hostages was, again, a marriage of practical effects with CGI. But there was another detail that needed some digital finessing: Captain America’s cowl. The cowl, modeled after the one Sam sports in the comics, was especially difficult to design.
Leven said, “What I learned from the costume department though, is that what they wanted was really really hard to get in real life. I don’t think there are any fabrics that can do exactly what they want, which is, it needs to be stretchy, it needs to hug the face, but it also has to feel thick like leather, but it also needs to flex like spandex … so they ended up building something that was as close as they could possibly get it, and then depending on how Anthony turned his head, you might get a huge wrinkle or the cowl might separate from his face. So in many shots we would replace the cowl so that it stayed snug to his face.”
He added, “there are no seams or zippers in superhero costumes”, so all those things had to be hidden with VFX. It’s mind-blowing to see just how much work goes into not only the giant action sequences, but every other frame of the series. Leven said that many of the major set-pieces take over a year to create, from concept to the screen.
The results are undeniably worth it, as Marvel continues to deliver killer action sequences, stunts, and visual effects.
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