Welcome to World builder, our ongoing series of conversations with the most productive, thoughtful artisans behind the scenes in the industry. In this post, we’ll talk to Eric Leven, the visual effects supervisor, about the frugal last-minute additions to The Falcon and The Winter Soldier VFX.
Marvel Studios doesn’t believe in getting it done early. They take their productions to the last minute and tweak every detail until it’s just right, or more precisely, until it’s time for the audience to hit play. Only the deadline has the final say.
Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Leven enjoys this method. It took him and his team every second not to just sell The falcon and the winter soldierGreat air battles, but also to hide the many, many, many seams Anthony Mackie in his new and gorgeous Captain America costume.
The Marvel Movies and Shows can be found in the paraphrases, new recordings, and CGI refinements. If there wasn’t a finish line, Leven could be tinkering forever. There is still one strand to adjust and another color to improve. Given the extraordinary nature of the past year, Leven and his team were given a changed schedule and extra time. Although where some time was introduced, other blocks of time were deleted. Once the premiere date was set, that was the only number that mattered.
Originally planned as a big MCU TV coming out party, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was designed to slap you in the face with its massive aerial action opener. The budget for early effects was much lower, but it became apparent that they couldn’t skimp on anything. As a result, the Falcon and Winter Soldier demanded as much financial love as any other Marvel blockbuster.
“The appetite was high,” says Leven. “The initial budget was lower because it was a streaming show and they said, ‘Yeah, we have to keep the budgets relatively low. “It quickly became clear that we couldn’t get around with low budgets. We need everything to be as good or better than the features. The resources have to be similar. So, yes, the budgets have increased very quickly to meet the needs to meet. “
While The falcon and the winter soldier The six-part Disney + series doesn’t seem to have as many spectacular CGI bursts as the team’s previous extravaganza. It’s littered with visual effects, and what you don’t notice only increases Leven’s enjoyment. You didn’t make an Avengers movie. Their main reference for the MCU was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s not Kramer versus Kramer, but there are no Infinity Gauntlets in sight and no blue rays in the sky.
“Grounded realism was really the name of the game,” he says. “No Wanda that wobbles. But if people were flying around with jetpacks blowing up helicopters, what would that look like? “
The refinement is constant. Plans change quickly, and sometimes it was Leven’s turn to pause on some ideas. You may not consider Marvel Studios a master of restraint, but you would be wrong. In order for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier to have their sound reality, the climax of the show required a conceptual reset.
“The helicopter fight in [the final episode] was originally supposed to take place in the New York buildings, ”says Leven. “We put the kibosh on it because it just got too crazy. And honestly, it would have been impossible to have a realistic helicopter hunt in Manhattan just because you aren’t actually allowed to fly in those buildings and trying to do it in CG wouldn’t look right. “
As important as the action was on this final episode, Sam’s big reveal as Captain America was even more important. The costume had to look like straight fire. In order to find the right moment and the right framework for the sale of our new Freedom Guard, several discussions were required, in which all departments were involved.
“There was a lot of discussion about how this suit would be revealed,” he says. “Initially, [Sam] would reveal it in [Episode 5]. He would show it to his family and neighbors at the dock. You put the kibosh on it. Then he would basically fly to the GRC [Global Repatriation Council] and land on the floor, and suddenly everyone on the floor would see him. They put a kibosh on it. It doesn’t make sense if a man flies to the ground with wings and then flies up to the hundredth floor of the building. Just bring him into the building! “
However, the GRC building was attacked. When the Flag Smashers stormed the conference, they set off the emergency lights. Unfortunately, that’s a whole lot of red, a color that absolutely clashes with Sam’s new guy. Oops.
“So he ended up in this red area originally,” continues Leven. “And then the editor basically said, ‘You can’t! This is the first time you see this red, white and blue costume. If it’s a red hue, the whites look pink and the reds look like they are the wrong color. You have to shoot it again with white lights. ‘”
Yes, Marvel loves its re-shoots, but at this late point in the game, just re-shooting the reveal wasn’t an option. Lightning speed solutions were critical at this point. Leven’s group got to work.
“We basically created a small room that he could land in in white light before stepping into red light,” he says. “And then there was a moment of ‘Maybe we just need another great comic book cover shot of him getting into the building.’ This shot of him coming in and throwing his sign was lifted straight off a comic book cover to make the entrance as good as possible. “
Leven has worked on numerous projects of all shapes and sizes (from Starship Trooper 2 to Cloverfield to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn). Each studio has its own atmosphere, but none works like Marvel. It’s not about first drafts or second drafts or third drafts. It’s only about seventy-eight to a hundred designs. Whatever they can pack before release.
“With most studios, you have a plan and you carry it out,” explains Leven. “And that’s it. For the most part, that’s what’s on the screen. At the Marvel shows, it’s been a constant evolution to keep making things better and better. At the end of the day there’s a release date, and They stand in front of this wall. But you’d better believe you will work to the point of absolute death. Because there is always something better to do. “
COVID was a nightmare for the world, but it gave Leven a few extra beats and a couple of dozen extra drafts before sending off his final work. These final protocols were not straightforward, and allowed a number of suggestions for the final dig, but this is where it all came together.
“Everyone is really trying to make the project the best they can. Then, at the last second, they’ll say, “You know, just change that from red to blue.” And suddenly the VFX facilities are trying to make that change, but it’s better. So everyone does it. “
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are currently streaming on Disney +.