The Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., who reprises his role as Tony Stark (Iron Man), as he tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program that goes awry. With help from fellow Avengers: Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, they attempt to thwart the evil Ultron from enacting his plans of destruction.
The Cantina Creative VFX team members, headed by VFX supervisor Alan Torres, worked directly with Christopher Townsend, VFX supervisor at Marvel Studios, to create more than 95 visual effects shots including a number of new Heads-Up Displays (HUDS). Cantina Creative, which also designed HUDS and interface graphical designs using Cinema 4D for Iron Man 3, Iron Man 2 and Marvel’s The Avengers, was asked to push the photographic quality the studio achieved in Iron Man 3 to the next level in the development and execution of 3D HUDS as well as story point elements and monitor graphics designs.
The technical evolution in the HUD designs in Age of Ultron required Cantina to introduce new creative techniques and approaches that demanded a heightened visual sense of space and lighting within all four of the new HUDS, namely the Mark 42, Mark 43, Mark 44 and Mark 45 armored suits worn by Downey Jr. “As Tony Stark continues to evolve, so must his toys,” said Torres. “Cinema 4D helped us conceptualize, develop and ultimately solve the creation of several challenging new assets to tell the story the way we intended and create elaborate, 3D photoreal and dimensional environments in the HUDS so that Stark can maneuver in a truly interactive manner.”
“A film project of this magnitude makes the creative process extremely fun and necessitates that our tools provide us with maximum flexibility so that we can stay focused, conceptualize new designs and push the envelope on existing material,” added Stephen Lawes, creative director, Cantina Creative. “We relied on numerous features in Cinema 4D to generate, animate and render HUD assets on many of the most challenging shots we delivered in Age of Ultron for an efficient and intuitive workflow. In a key point-of-view sequence for the Mark 45 where Stark scans a church key that runs through the rising section of earth, we needed to transition from a live-action plate to a CG schematic. Using the camera and tracking data in Cinema 4D allowed us to import the church key model (supplied by ILM) and after developing the schematic look of the key we were intuitively able to animate and then render passes into After Effects for compositing.”
Under the direction of creative director, David Sheldon-Hicks, the Territory team also worked closely with Townsend, Age of Ultron production designer Charles Wood and the art department to craft a visual language and bring realism and emotive depth to the film’s super heroes and their technology. In total, Territory designed more than 200 screens and 80 minutes of unique animations, across 11 sets, to create new visual identities and user interface designs for the technology seen in Avengers Tower, including Stark’s lab, Banner’s research lab, the Quinjet aircraft as well as the fortress of Baron Von Strucker and Dr. Cho’s advanced medical lab.
To achieve authenticity in elements such as 3D holograms and computer screen diagnostics, Territory researched details from the fields of military, robotics and avionics technology. “We approach our 3D work from a design perspective with the intention that our screen graphics will serve as a hero piece of content, a story-specific element,” said Sheldon-Hicks.
“In Age of Ultron our 3D visuals needed to tell a story in the blink of an eye while retaining enough detail for close scrutiny on a cinema projection. Cinema 4D allows us to think like designers, work quickly and creatively and push ourselves technically to discover new techniques. Its tight workflow with other tools such as After Effects is also an essential aspect when working against tight deadlines, and allowed us to render an element while compositing and animating continuously.”
Territory drew upon various toolsets within Cinema 4D including Thinking Particles, Mograph and Sketch and Toon for quick render passes and mesh organization for creative experimentation. “For the Leviathan screens, created for the Fortress set, we took a highly detailed CGI model received from one of the main vendors to organize the mesh into manageable chunks and to experiment with different setups,” explained Peter Eszenyi, head of 3D, Territory Studios. “Cinema 4D gave us the flexibility to explore using the mesh as an emitter as well as placing several other emitters around it. For other passes we used the mesh as a collider object, and of course we did quite a few different setups with turbulences, wind, surface modifiers – the whole works. In parallel we also used the Sketch and Toon module to experiment with different contour settings, lights and shadows and also played around after rendering the passes with shadows, ambient occlusion, tessellation methods and projection so we could start producing the different screens.”