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Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America takes place in 1943. Period films are one of our favorite things to do, so we were excited to contribute digital environments to Joe Johnston's film. One major sequence for us takes place in the fictional 1943 World Expo. The real World's Fair was canceled that year because of World War II, but the Marvel Universe imagines it going forward in New York City, featuring ideas of the future from a 40s-era perspective.

Place your mouse over the images to see "before and after" versions of each shot.

The opening shot establishes a steel globe in an exhibit-hall pavilion, coming to life from an artist's conception seen printed in a newspaper. Fireworks from our library of elements are composited behind the scene, and a CGI monorail drives through to complete the match to the artwork.

The camera tilts down to find the main characters walking through the Expo. Lola VFX preprocessed the plate to create a "skinny Steve" version—dramatically downsizing the actor.

Plates for the sequence were shot in England, outdoors on an empty paved lot surrounded by large green screens The scheduled shoot day came with miserable weather. Steady mist and rain were falling and wind tore the lighting silks. The show must go on though, and the actors did a remarkable job ignoring the conditions. The mist obscured the green-screens and background action, so a great deal of rotoscoping was needed to extract the characters and color-correct them in groups to restore the proper sense of depth. Individual raindrops were painted out. Hopefully the audience is unaware of the stormy weather in the finished sequence.

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The reverse view shows more buildings centered around the "Modern Marvels" building. Bucky has arranged for a double-date with two women standing at the base of a statue. These statues were created as physical miniatures and photographed to be composited into the 3D matte painting. The other buildings are simplified 3D models with projected textures.

Throughout the scene, MWD inserted background actors using elements shot on green screen on our own stage.

Inside the Modern Marvels Pavilion, crowds are enjoying glimpses of the future (including hints of technology critical to other Marvel characters). The interior space was created as a unified 3D model to allow rendering from a number of viewpoints, including this craning opening shot. Matte-painted projections for key views provide the textures, combined with lighting simulations and renders for reflective or transparent materials.

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The reverse shot features the overhead walkway and hanging exhibits, along with a giant tank that fantasizes an underwater city. We especially had fun with the mural circling the building. Every shot showing Steve Rogers required a Lola VFX "skinny Steve" element.

Steve discovers an Army recruiting center on the Expo grounds. Our matte painting completes the background with additional buildings, blowing flags, and CGI monorail. Our compositors add blowing mist and a number of subtle plate tweaks.

The action shifts to Europe once Steve joins the Army. Matte World provided an establishing shot of barrage balloons over London. The balloons are 3D elements with a cloth simulation composited over a multi-plane matte painting of the Parliament and Big Ben clock tower. A CGI Union Jack provides some foreground detail. The shot cranes down to street level and continues into an underground command center.

The villain stalks a bombed-out factory. The digital matte painting incorporates many layers of composited smoke and fire elements from our library.

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Steve's favorite London Pub has been destroyed by bombs. Our 3D painting shows Saint Paul's Cathedral in the background. A few characters shot on our stage move through the debris in the street. We replaced most of the midground wall with a matte painting to control the edges and transparency of the broken windows.

Near the end of the film, a victory formation of Allied airplanes flies over Trafalgar Square as crowds celebrate V-E Day. Multiple plates of crowds were shot without any motion control, then were tracked and composited together to fill the square. Our matte artists replaced modern elements in the plate with period details and added advertisements from the 1940s. CGI fighters (P-51, Hurricane and Spitfire) lead low-flying bombers (Lancaster and B-17).

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Film Credits

Film Credits