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For Iron Man 2, director Jon Favreau not only wanted to ramp up the jeopardy and emotional crises for his armed and animated superhero, but also the action, too. Thus, there's the addition of pal Rhodie as War Machine (Don Cheadle) as well Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) and military drones created by arch rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). ILM worked on 535 out of 1,000 shots, collaborating with ILM Singapore (under the leadership of Mohen Leo), which contributed roto, layout, matchmove suit animation and compositing throughout. ILM also worked directly with Embassy Effects, Trixter and Pixomondo. However, Janek Sirrs, the overall visual effects supervisor, contracted several other studios for additional work, including Double Negative, Legacy, Pixel Liberation Front, Fuel, Lola, Evil Eye, Goat, Svengali, The Third Floor, Prologue, Hydraulx and Perception, among others.
ILM leveraged its lighting tools from Terminator Salvation to add more real world believability. All images courtesy of Marvel and Paramount.
"Jon was more aware of how we were able to get to the suits so we were a lot closer for a lot longer," states Ben Snow, visual effects supervisor for Industrial Light & Magic. "Basically, all but three or four of the shots where the helmet's shut are completely CG. And then when the helmet's open in the house fight between Iron Man and War Machine, it's often using a partial suit that Legacy Effects created but then extending that with arm bits and other bits and sometimes the whole suit replaced, depending on the shot. We were also able to use some of the new lighting tools that we started developing on Terminator Salvation and did a lot of work to make that a more usable and real world-like [system] for Iron Man. We were able to leverage the improvements in lighting to give us a bit more creative freedom."
Indeed, that's probably the biggest breakthrough for ILM on Iron Man 2: On Terminator Salvation, the studio integrated an energy conserving shader set in RenderMan in conjunction with an HDRI lighting approach to get rendered images with a more believable real world look.
The system is called Energy Conserving Image-Based Important Sampled Lighting and what it means is "that the way we're lighting the CG suit is a lot more like the way the DP [Matthew Libatique] lights the real suit and we're using photographs of his to light the CG suits and bounce lights and flags to flag off lights. And what we found in practice is that we go from zero to real a lot more quickly and so we were able to focus on the aesthetic stuff: How do we make it look more beautiful and tweak the lighting so it fits in better?"
War Machine and the drones offer a whole new fighting arsenal based on real military weaponry.