Making Avengers like child play

17:00, Sep 11 2012
Scenes from Marvel's Avengers Assemble
Scenes from Marvel's Avengers Assemble
Scenes from Marvel's Avengers Assemble

Creating fight scenes between a mythical god and a mechanical suit-wearing billionaire was child's play for the team at Weta Digital.

Hollywood blockbuster The Avengers, starring Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson, broke almost every box office record when it opened in cinemas earlier this year.  Now out on Blu-Ray, it is set to break even more.

The film's Wellington-based visual effects supervisor Guy Williams has worked on a number of big-budget flicks including Avatar, King Kong and XMen: The Last Stand, but says The Avengers was the kind of project that is less work and more play.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm in the team.  Basically everyone liked the material - they would go and see the movie, even if they weren't working on it.  So they would tell me stuff like 'Ironman wouldn't do that, he'd do this', and it became easy to find the results because everybody was so eager to look for it.

"And to their credit, never once did the crew say 'this is hard, we should fall back a bit', or anything like that.  They were like a bunch of kids - they saw something they wanted to do and sat there happily until they found a way to achieve it."

Williams was born in Mississippi and came to New Zealand in 1999 to work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  He found his way to computer arts after realising his first choice at university - aerospace engineering - was a bit of a dud, as the Cold War was ending and the opportunities in the field were shrinking by the minute.

Visual effects and CGI however, were about to explode.

In his role as The Avengers' visual effect supervisor, Williams was tasked with looking after the pre-production, development and pipeline setup phases as well as post production and shot completion for massive scenes including the fight between Ironman and Thor, and the destruction of Engine 3 of the Helicarrier.  
He says while the ideas he works with are larger than life, the challenge comes from making them believable.

"As much as absolutely possible you are making it look real.  The whole concept is the suspension of disbelief - you don't want to make something incredibly cool, but is so jarring that it pulls you out of the movie.  And sometimes its hard because the scripts are getting more fantastical every time, but you put as much effort as you can into anchoring it as much as possible in reality so the viewer can relate to it more.

The answer, Williams says, is to find the point in reality that is closest to whatever stunt they are trying to pull off - whether that is a familiar camera angle or even cutting back slightly on the craziness.

"You try to figure out ways to remind the viewer they have seen something similar before, it makes it easier to digest what they are seeing. Even if that is Ironman smashing a god's face into a cliff"

The Avengers is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray


Guy Williams
DIGITAL MASTERMIND: Weta Digital's Guy Williams