The Senate and Method Studios Arm Captain America
Another, smaller sequence tended to by The Senate was the United Services Organization Sequence. The United Services Organization - or USO - is a party whose primary function is to entertain, raise moral and provide some comforts of home to military personnel. Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich are some of the most famous members, who, during WWII, toured Europe and put on shows for soldiers when they had some reprieve from the front lines.
Steve Rogers, having taken the serum, becomes super but through a series of circumstances becomes the only one of his kind. The Army program that created him is now dead and they do not know what to do with him. Steve is then recruited by the government to become part of a USO show as "Captain America" to raise morale, and money for war bonds. Obviously he doesn't stay an entertainer for long but this is how his name, outfit and the fact that he uses a shield are established.
For this sequence, The Senate's task was to take the limited number of military extras that Captain America addresses from a stage, and turn them into a vast crowd. Using multiple passes provided by production of the 80 or so extras in different positions, the crowds were carefully blended to form a small army of several hundred individuals. Careful attention was needed for the areas where the different passes met, dotting about individual soldiers to ensure there was no obvious division between the different groups of spectators.
Meanwhile, Method Studios completed 28 shots (supervised by Sean Faden), including the sequence where Captain America is jumping out of the Stark airplane behind enemy lines. This involved all of the plane interior shots - adding backgrounds outside the windows - and the exterior shots of the plane which needed to be changed from day to night and augmented with explosions, clouds, tracers and some matte painting adjustments. For the opening exterior shot, Oliver Pron created a more pronounced Alps ridgeline for the plane to approach to help it cut better with the subsequent interior shots.
The interior shots required multilayer greenscreen comps out the windows, which consisted of CG clouds, CG flak explosions and tracers, background plates shot on location in the Swiss Alps, as well as reflection reconstruction for the plane windows. For the exterior shots, Method turned the day plates to a night look, adding CG clouds, CG flak explosions and tracers, and rendered a CG moonlit plane to be mixed in with the practical. In addition, interactive flak lighting, “Stark Industry” logos, and interior window lights were added to the plane.
The most complex shot involved a digital double for Captain America jumping from the plane and deploying his parachute while flak explosions and tracers filled the sky. Method received a scan of Chris Evans in a body suit, and Method Lead Modeller, Masa Narita proceeded to model and texture his full jump suit and parachute gear. Animator Aaron Schultz animated the character as well as the parachute as a combination of hand animation and Ncloth within Maya.
CG flak explosions, tracers, and clouds were generated in Houdini and rendered through Mantra, while Captain America, the parachute, and all interactive light for the plane shots were rendered through Vray out of Maya. Compositing was a combination of Nuke and Flame, with the majority of interior shots going Nuke to take advantage of sharing similar setups across shots.