She-Hulk Thanos VFX

Marvel VFX Artist Explains Why Thanos CGI Looks Better Than She-Hulk

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A Marvel VFX artist pulled back the curtain and finally revealed why Thanos might look better than She-Hulk in his Disney+ series.

MCU Transmission Series She-Hulk: Lawyer It has been praised for many things, but the questionable CGI has not been one of them. The Tatiana Maslany-directed legal comedy has some fans up in arms for the CG look of the main character, especially when compared to other fully CG heroes and villains elsewhere in the franchise.

Some VFX professionals who worked on she-hulk have spoken about the CGI issues the team ran into, resulting in some scenes looking better than others. A producer of the project revealed that “I didn’t really have a plan” when it came to the VFX shots, and they wrote the best story they could, thinking of the CG elements later.

But there may be a deeper reason She-Hulk looks a little different compared to Josh Brolin’s Thanos, and it may have a lot to do with the actual emotions each character is forced to act out on screen.

Comparing She-Hulk to Thanos

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Speaking with Befores & Afters, Digital Domain visual effects supervisor Phil Cramer, who led the work on She-Hulk: Lawyer, offered one reason why the Disney+ series’ titular Tawyer-turned-superhero seemed less convincing than the MCU’s villain, Thanos.

Cramer said a lot of it had to do with the actual emotions each character had to go through on screen. He said “Thanos was a bald and angry man” weather “Tatiana is a bubbly young actress with a wide range of emotions” who “he portrays them very vividly on his face:”

“It’s also important to remember that Thanos was a bald, angry man, and Tatiana is a bubbly young actress with a wide range of emotions, and she portrays them very vividly on her face.”

This caused a greater degree of difficulty for the artists because “with She-Hulk, [they] had to show a full range of emotions and facial expressions,” usually while speaking as well, and while the “[VFX] the system still has to hold and capture this:”

“It turns out that the difficulty was much higher than what we created for Thanos, because Thanos didn’t need to show a lot of emotion. He just looked cool when he was stoically looking at the camera or angry. But now with She-Hulk, we had to show a full range of emotions and facial expressions, including happy, drunk and laughing, all while we were talking, and the system has yet to maintain and capture this.”

Cramer commented, “That was something we hadn’t anticipated” going in:

“So our faces team, under the leadership of Fabrize Visserot and Ron Miller, had to do a lot of work on the details to drive facial expressions so far. That was something we hadn’t anticipated, to be honest the system was pushed beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

He also noted that for she-hulk the effects house used their new “Masquerade 2.0 proprietary platform”, allowing them to pass from “high-end frame-by-frame coherent mesh that we use to train the system for machine learning” to power “generate it on our own”, thus skipping a step in the process:

“We use our proprietary platform Masquerade 2.0, and one of the most important aspects of the new version is that we no longer need to acquire training data. Normally, we need training data based on Medusa, that is, a very high-level framework for coherent mesh framework that we use to train the system for machine learning. From that, we would then recreate the high resolution facial performance.

Now, however, we can generate it ourselves using just the HMC data, plus the scans. We realized that our internally generated data is better than the data we receive. For She-Hulk, we still got Medusa data, but we ended up not using it.”

Speaking on the same subject with Befores & Afters, senior animation supervisor at Wētā FX (one of the many effects studios that worked on she-hulk) Sidney Kombo-Kintombo talked about the difference between She-Hulk and other characters.

Said Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk is “a fully human character” without “cartoon” features at all. “Even the Hulk is a bit of a caricature,” he doesn’t seem completely human with his “smaller nose” Y “massive jaw:”

“You’re absolutely right. If you look at She-Hulk, even compared to all the other female characters we’ve done, there’s no question. She’s a completely human character. Marvel didn’t even make her a cartoon of anything. Even the Hulk is a bit of a cartoon, right? He’s got a smaller nose, he’s got a huge jaw.”

These small changes to the Hulk’s anatomy allow the audience to “accept mistakes or less convincing facial expressions.” So the challenge with She-Hulk was “Make the audience look at it and say, ‘Oh, this is just makeup, there’s a real person behind this:'”

“So when you look at this as an audience, regardless of how realistic it is, something pops into your head that says this isn’t real because no one is like that; it’s easier to accept mistakes or less convincing facial expressions. You can accept that from characters like that , but when you look at She-Hulk, there’s no part of her face that’s a caricature, she’s just like anyone who might be on the street.

So the challenge is to make the audience look at it and say, ‘Oh, this is just makeup, there’s a real person behind it.’ There was really nowhere to hide, she doesn’t have big eyes, she doesn’t have a cat look. She has all the features that we do.”

Why should fans go easy on She-Hulk?

She-Hulk, CGI, MCU
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And all of this is exactly why fans should go a little easier on She-Hulk when it comes to her CG appearance. She doesn’t get the luxury that the likes of the Hulk and Thanos get.

Of course, Jennifer Walter’s portly green cousin is mentioned in the quotes above, but the same could be said for Thanos. Both Josh Brolin’s Hulk and Mad Titan may seem a bit more convincing simply because they don’t look 100% human.

Because there is something strange in the nature of both, the audience is willing to forgive any mistakes or strange facial expressions, simply because they subconsciously say: ‘Oh, these creatures are not of this world.’

She-Hulk has no wiggle room on that front. She is the most human CG character seen in the franchise thus far. Plus, add in the fact that she has to get excited almost every second instead of staring stoically at the camera like Thanos, or being in a constant growl like the Hulk, and there are bound to be hiccups.

But as these VFX artists learn and develop newer or better tools, hopefully She-Hulk’s CGI problems will be a thing of the past.

She-Hulk: Lawyer is streaming now on Disney+.

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