Building a Better Iron Man 3
Meanwhile, Trixter was tasked with the fun and funny suit-connect sequences (including the beta test in the garage when Stark has difficulty summoning all of the individual pieces, and the later one when he's captured and can only summon the glove and boot).
"We studied all the other connecting sequences from the previous movies, but the special difficulty in our version was that Stark was moving all over the place and tracking was very tricky," recounts Simone Kraus, the animation supervisor that collaborated at Trixer with VFX supervisor Alessandro Cioffi. "At first, we had only five weeks to deliver footage for Comic-Con after the plates were delivered. Afterward, we started working on the movie version and re-did most of it."
There was also a romantic moment between Iron Man and Pepper that was quite a departure for the franchise. Trixter, which used a combination of Maya, Nuke, Mari, RenderMan, FumeFX, 3ds Max and Photoshop, tried to make us forget that it was man in an iron suit massaging Pepper, that you imagine Stark through the metal.
For late arriving Method (under the supervision of Matt Dessero), they built more internal suit pieces and broke them apart for shots involving water tower destruction, plant regeneration and Extremis acts of terror. Method acquired assets from DD, Weta and Framestore (which worked on Extremis-related action as well).
As for Extremis, the effect consisted of custom blend shapes. On average there were three blend shapes needed per shot to lock the actor's facial performance. The matchmoves were important because the Extremis effect not only contains a surface component, but also a richness that Townsend was after that comes from the deeper internal component of the effect, including an internal glow that is occluded by the bones and vascular system. Method used Maya, Vray, Houdini, Nuke, Syntheyes and Boujou.
"The great thing about the Iron Man films is their irreverence and a believability about who he is and what he can do," concludes Townsend.
There's definitely more Stark can do despite the appearance of a complete character arc for Downey. Marvel swears he'll be back. And there's even a Bond-like tag proclaiming "Tony Stark Will Return."
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld, the owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.