Is it even possible to have an action packed superhero mega hit without digital-heavy visuals? We’re going to go ahead and say no, with the exception of The Dark Knight Trilogy where Christopher Nolan only used digital artists if absolutely necessary (fun fact of the day). It is no surprise that the latest installment in the Spider-Man series, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, relies heavily on digital effects. But don’t use the heavy digital effects as a deterrence from going to see this major hit: “…the FX team at Sony Imageworks is committed to keeping the action as real as possible.” Phew. We were worried.
The Visual Effects team at Sony Imageworks all wanted to ensure that the movie wasn’t going to solely be depicting a fantasy – instead, they wanted to be sure that real physics were used to merge the “fantastical with the physical”. If you think about it, it makes so much sense – why would you want the digital effects to be better than the physical set? That shows a disconnect and poor set design and planning.
“Spider-Man blends the fantastic with the physical better than any other superhero – an odd statement to make, given the whole “spider powers” angle,” claims Digital Trends‘ Devin Connors. Here’s hist take on combining the two design worlds into one great image: “Put differently: his abilities don’t grant the power of flight, nor do they make him invulnerable to his surroundings. Web-slinging from building to building surely is fantastic, but Spider-Man is still limited by the same physical world that we live in. The same laws of physics that apply to us, apply to Spidey (on paper, at least).” THANK YOU Devin for acknowledging that the two worlds must simultaneously exist in films.
When trying to best combine fantasy with real, physical action, there are a variety of things to consider. For example, it’s important to take gravity, Newton’s Laws, accurate scale to speed, accurate weight representation, and aerodynamics (especially in the case of the Spider-Man series) to have a correct depiction during animation/action sequences. As for the visual effects team, they have the same approach – they want the real deal: “We were trying to stay away from a normal lightning bolt as much as possible,” said Smith, who went on to cite neurological networks, Tesla arcs, plasma, and St. Elmo’s Fire as inspiration for Electro’s varying modes and attacks.
But the greatest and most-well executed meeting of fantastical and physical in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can be seen at the Spidey-Electro fight in the heart of Manhattan – Times Square. In what took over a week to shoot, the sequence was shot both in Times Square and a Long Island soundstage. After it was all said and done, the scenes took approximately one year to finalize. WHOA. Take a look at Devin’s inside scoop on the major action sequence:
“Two days of shooting in Times Square was complemented by a week of set time at the Long Island location. The initial two days give the sequence a very real New York City aesthetic, but tossing cars and fighting with lightning is definitely animation and VFX territory. In order to create a world in which the animation team could go to work, Smith oversaw a photographic mapping of Times Square. Location scouts snapped 36,000 photos (under the careful eye of the NYPD counter-terrorism squad) of the square, all of which were stitched together over geometry built by the animation team. During the shooting days on Long Island, dozens of shipping containers were covered in green screen to re-create some of the necessary Times Square structures, which the stitched photography was laid over in post.”
To say that this action packed mega hit is anything short of amazing, in terms of digital effects and physical sets, is so so wrong. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in theaters now. Is it bad to consider going to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 solely for the Spidey-Electro sequence in Times Square? We say no.
For more Movie Friday, check out our articles here.