Chris Evans Is CGI Skinny In Captain America: Another Look

I made a post a few months back on the  skinny special effects used on Chris Evans from the new upcoming movie Captain America.  The story of Captain America requires that the lead actor appear to be scrawny before he undergoes a government experiment in World War 2.  After the process, the actor would need to appear to be muscular and tall.  In the past they might have cast two different actors, but today they can use the latest in CGI special effects.  Below are some screenshots that showcase the effects that transformed Chris Evans into a skinny wimp.  The effects house and artists responsible for this did a terrific job.

Chris Evans Is Skinny Steve Rodgers

Chris Evans Is Skinny Steve Rodgers

I’ve talked about how the process could’ve been done.  I think any 3d animation was probably limited, but you never know.  Things could be that good nowadays.  I was definitely fooled by some of the 3d Armie Hammer effects in the Social Network movie.  I think they definitely may have utilized some 3d tracking method to sync up footage of two different actors.  It appears to me atleast to have been some very skilled compositing work that was used to give the illusion of Chris Evans as an extremely thin man.  That is my best guess.  However, I did mention that they created a 3d head of Armie Hammer in that Facebook movie.  Could something similar have been done here?
Picture Of A Very Thin Chris Evans.

Another screenshot of a very thin Chris Evans.

The answer is that yes, they could have cyberscanned Chris Evans head in 3d with a variety of expressions and phenomes in order to create a puppet for him to project his acting on.  They then would place tracking markers on to a skinny standin double and have him act out the scene.  This would then give the proper data to the 3d head for movement and camera positioning.  The compositing guys would then have to combine the two elements together.  This could end up very convincing if the 3d head were done correctly.  It worked in the movie the Social Network, but I’m not positive it was used for Captain America.  There appears to be much more action in some of the scenes here where as in the other movie it was mostly just acting.  So for this one I’m stumped.  I will say this though, if it i is a full 3d head being used in this movie,  I’ve been completely fooled as right now I am fully convinced it is actually Chris Evans face doing the acting and it’s just slightly warped to fit the skinny double’s body.  It’s hard to fool a 3d animator when it comes to special effects, but I’m sure that it will be done someday if it already hasn’t.  One things for sure, I’ll be in the theater opening weekend to check out the effects in Captain America.

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10 Responses to “Chris Evans Is CGI Skinny In Captain America: Another Look”

matt h April 22nd, 2011 at 11:12 am

Or they might have gone completely the other way and tracked a CG body to Evans from the jaw down. The face is absolutely the hardest thing to do and the body is definitely easier (still a lot of work of course). But yeah, tracking and wrapping Evans head Social Network style could be it too… OR, Evans head down to the jaw, digital neck (to ease the transition), skinny double body.

I think many of the shots could be even simpler and MUCH cheaper than that though. There are still camera shots where you could just have a take with Evans and one with the skinny actor and simply position Evans properly and comp his head over the other actor. Also the ones in the machine – both the machine he’s in and the camera itself can be motion control. I’m sure that as many of these shots would be done as possible because of cost and a bit of cleanup in composting but using a real body and real head is going to be more convincing without anywhere near the work. Study those shots again and see what you think.

Notice also how many of those early shots are still and how many shots don’t show the actor’s feet – it’s entirely possible that he’s made to look that short by everyone else being on apple boxes!

Are you in movies or just cg? Because in movies it’s always about getting the shot the best/most effective, simplest or cheapest way possible. But like they say, pick two.

admin April 23rd, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I’m pretty sure they are using a double. If you search internet, I believe there is a behind the scenes picture with the scrawny guy on the table before they raise him in the machine. I was taught 3d animation/modeling. We learned everything from compositing into live footage, making storyboards, concept art, everything you need to know to be able to do this stuff. I do not however work in the industry. I’d love to work in movies, but I’ve yet to construct a portfolio that would get me a job for that. They also take into consideration where you live. Being as I’m nowhere near California, I have alot going against me at the moment. Its not that I can’t or don’t know how to make similar effects. It’s a time issue. All these things require a bunch of time and to be honest I hate to work for for 2 hours and then stop for a day and come back later. When I work on a project i like to work around like 8-10 hours at a time so I don’t lose a feel for what i’m doing with little interruption as possible, but with a regular job I can’t really do that timewise. It’s a catch 22 as they say. Someday I’ll start posting some of my work on here. I’ve modeled a realistic head(no textures yet or sss),I’ve also done dinosaurs,trees, architecture and stuff like that, but I’d rather have a finished project before displaying so I can break it down piece by piece.

matt h April 25th, 2011 at 11:24 am

Yup sure, I was just offering another alternative – one less prone to intense scrutiny than a cg head – even the quasi-real/cg Social Network approach was generally employed for the less featured twin in the shot. No sense in drawing more attention than you need when the performance is the thing. Even with the locked off stuff you’d probably go multiple passes for a clean plate so you could do the minimal tracking as they’re not gonna line up perfectly even if fairly still. At least with the machine you can control both it and the camera – and save your dollars for the great shot where he lies down. I wonder if they had to do a re-tining pass on that one to get both people to line up perfectly?

I understand about the time thing and getting on a roll. It can be hard to maintain the concentration required for the human stuff especially. But I don’t think location is such a big thing anymore – unless you wouldn’t be willing to move or travel if you did get the job. Generally they ask you about that in an interview. I live Down Under, a few hours away from Sydney. If I’m working at an VFX shop or on a feature, all they want to know is that I’ll be there on time in the morning, not how I get there. And because I’m only 2-3 hours away (depending on traffic) no accommodation supplied. Keep bashing away though at night and on weekends and I’m sure you’ll get in there, even if it’s not on top-of-the-line stuff initially. The foot in the door is very important, as is flexibility. And an understanding of film language/context. I’m not a 3d cg guy, but I’m teaching myself to sculpt both traditionally and digitally at the same time to supplement my regular skillset. And both ways at the same time so I never fall into the trap of thinking inside the capabilities of a program. I see that all the time – your eye is the best thing you can develop. And on that note eyes are the most important thing for me with cg characters. It’s sort of horrifying how with 60 seconds and Photoshop you can even grade a better looking eye than in Tron2… as long as you’re concentrating more on how real eyes behave than the sss shader or the renderer (so much is tweaked in 2d comping anyway – look at Tippett’s daytime work on Starship troopers years before the average cg model would generally look that good in broad daylight) – a lot of that stuff was finished off with a lot more 2d work than people realise. Knowing all that stuff is great if you know why and when to use ‘em first. I’ve had to do range of motion and so on for TDs because they don’t understand anatomy and limitations in the first place. It’s scary and how the tech guys get saddled with the stereotypes.

Anyway I’m sounding like a big prat here but just wanted to say rather than thinking of the fx technique first, come from the other end. What sort of a shot is it and therefore what’s the simplest and most effective way to achieve it, hence the talk of apple boxes and locked-off shots. I’m really excited for this flick!

Looking forward to seeing your stuff! Cheers mate!

admin April 26th, 2011 at 12:27 am

That’s cool, at one point I wanted to be traditional, cgi, anything to be involved in the movies. I think it’s interesting that a traditional guy like Rick Baker uses programs like Zbrush now(to toy around with) and he’s like one of the top zbrush sculptors in my eyes. He puts some of the guys at the other cgi effects companies to shame. I don’t know if any 3d models of his have been used in movies though. They probably should be.

matt h April 26th, 2011 at 7:06 am

Hell yeah – I’m a monster (sorry) Rick Baker fan and have been since I was a kid. It was no surprise that with his sense of design and anatomical and sculpting knowledge he rocketed past most cg sculptors in literally a few weeks. The same when he jumped onto photoshop. And I love that he’s not driven by the tools – he has a goal in mind first and figures out how to achieve it with the tools. So many people are restricted because they can only think of what the tools capabilities are not what they want to achieve in the first place and therefore the tail wags the dog.

I was lucky to be trained the old way but when I got into the workforce wasn’t jaded enough to reject new tools – I couldn’t learn about Photoshop form anyone because it was version 1 and there was no-one to teach it! Therefore I could only think what I wanted to do and find an analogous digital solution, which was like a kind of self-discipline.

I must admit that something that always turned me off with learning 3d was that the jargon and naming conventions are all engineering, NOT artistic. I tried Zbrush a few years back and it was all Greek to me. But after seeing what Rick Baker had done I thought well if he talks like he’s such a technodork I really should give it another go, because his stuff is SO much better than most of what I see out there. So last year I bought it properly and even though I haven’t had much time with it yet (haven’t got to re-topologizing/rezzing, sublayers for eyeballs etc), It was a lot more intuitive. I like Apple for instance not including manuals with some of their programs because they take the view the interface should be intuitive enough that you don’t NEED one. And it’s hard to argue with that. So I was happy that zbrush seemed to have come a way on making it more analogous to what a traditional artist does, but with glorious improvements like symmetry and the holy undo. Conversely I liked back in the early days of Photoshop when they had alpha channels (I’m horrified how many people don’t know what they are) but NOT layers, so you had to be a bit more disciplined and plan for the result in your mind’s eye, rather than not have to commit to anything because it’s all live/alterable and the whole piece loses focus and strength.

So anyway yeah Zbrush was much more like regular sculpting this time. I also forced myself to start from a sphere every time and not cheat by just pushing and pulling someone’s existing geometry. I mean in the real world you have to start from scratch and have the discipline of building the forms, so in terms of actually learning properly I thought I should do that here. And have a bash at traditional sculpting at the same time, so I’m not beholden to one mindset or the other and focus on my goal instead. And learning to sculpt in the first place for me is to overcome an inherent myopia/prejudice I have because I come from illustration and design and therefore think in line and composition but not in terms of mass, so even there sculpting is a means to an end for me. I should learn 2d animation to become a good draughtsman too, as cg animation won’t teach me to have an eye like that.

I love stuff like Baker’s work on The Frighteners where he used digital prosthetics way before pretty much anybody with the digital guts and stuff, but at exactly the same time did the traditional fake hanging jawbone which is one of the oldest tricks in the makeup fx book! And he acknowledged back with American Werewolf one of the giant limitations with makeup is that it’s additive which is why he went for a puppet for subtractive stuff like the partially skeletonised Frank in the cinema and so on – and that stuff like his Benjamin Button designs lent themselves to cg for exactly the same reason, no matter how amazing his overcoming the additive problem on past projects. He sees the goal clearly rather than being seduced by a technique.

Have you seen the silicon maquette he and Katsu Tsuji did for Button? It’s awe-inspiring. The cg guys used it as a template.

One thing I haven’t seen is the one they apparently did for Clu/Young Flynn. I’d kill to see that. I couldn’t believe that neither the Tron nor Button Cinefex articles showed that stuff…

And it’s a crime they obstructed Baker from overseeing the cg stuff on Wolf Man. Who on earth knows more and has a better eye than Rick Baker???!!!

Bluenoser August 10th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Chris acted it all and they shrunk his body. No body double, no CGI head.

josh October 30th, 2011 at 2:49 am

It is a body double,his name leander deeny,just go to full cast veiw and it will have caption America 2/ double

admin October 30th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for the information Josh! I wonder if they specifically modeled their special effects after his body(Leander Deeny) to make Chris Evans look small in the other scenes when they used the digital shrinking/muscle blurring technique.

Alexandra Clair February 27th, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I’m looking to get bids for an independent film needing to build some CGI for a last scene in the film. Can you recommend someone who does this work or do you do this work.
If so call me.

admin February 28th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Hi, I currently do not have the resources or time to work on movies, even if i would like to. I checked out your website and film clips on youtube. Nice production value. I would recommend linkedin or to find some cgi/animators with experience in this area.

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