In terms of SuperHero movies, they don’t come much bigger than this. One of the most anticipated films of 2015, Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the $1.5bn grossing ‘biggest SuperHero movie of all-time’ The Avengers, and Prime Focus World (PFW) was delighted to be called in by Marvel to deliver stereo conversion services for the film.
Helmed once again by uber-writer / director Joss Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron sees Tony Stark trying to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program. But when things go awry, Earth's mightiest heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to the Avengers to stop him executing his terrible plans.
PFW was called in to deliver the stereo conversion of some of the biggest action scenes in Avengers: Age of Ultron, including the forest attack sequence that opens the film, the truck chase through Seoul and the climactic battle in the abandoned church, which required PFW to wrangle hundreds of layers of VFX elements.
“After our work with Marvel on Guardians of the Galaxy, which picked up the ‘Best Live Action 3D Feature’ award from the International 3D Society, we were delighted to be invited back to partner with them again on Avengers: Age of Ultron,” said Merzin Tavaria, Chief Creative Director, PFW.
PFW’s Senior Stereo Supervisor Richard Baker worked closely with Marvel Stereo Supervisor Evan Jacobs to set the look of the stereo for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was a continuation of the style that they had developed for Guardians.
“Under Evan’s guidance we pushed the depth a bit more on Guardians, which worked really well for that film,” said Richard. “Taking this as a starting point we were able to keep good depth throughout Avengers: Age of Ultron, even though the edit is quick and there is lots of action.”
PFW SVP Production Matthew Bristowe led the production team on Avengers: Age of Ultron, liaising with Marvel Stereo Producer Mike May.
“It was a real honour to get the call from Marvel to work on their biggest title of the year,” said Matthew. “The Marvel team are very collaborative - always open and inclusive - and this is a great environment to work within. It’s great experience for the crew - they can take a lot away from being a part of the Marvel team.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron was the first show on which PFW has collaborated directly with Academy Award® winning VFX house Double Negative (Dneg) since the merger of the two companies in 2014. Dneg delivered one of the movie’s big action set-pieces, providing visual effects for the truck chase sequence set in Seoul, South Korea, which PFW subsequently stereo converted.
“The relationship with Dneg is working really well,” said Matthew Bristowe. “We’re now able to offer industry-leading VFX and stereo conversion services under one roof, and the benefits to the client are enormous, removing the headache of arranging and supervising element deliveries between VFX and conversion and saving time and money in the process. Our VFX and stereo production teams are across the corridor from each other, and we can easily access early temp versions of shots ahead of time to prep for the final stereo delivery, allowing us to deliver more quickly and at even higher levels of quality.”
PFW also worked very closely with Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the main VFX partner on the show. PFW and ILM have a great working relationship going back to the stereo conversions of Star Wars Episodes I-III, and Avengers: Age of Ultron marked another successful collaboration.
“We deployed our proprietary AssistedBreakout tool to help harvest the elements we needed from ILM,” said PFW stereographer Barry O’Brien. “By remoting in to ILM’s VFX environment we were able to use the tool to automatically simplify the huge VFX shots they were working on into minicomps, removing the need for big data transfers and the cost and time required for the VFX vendor to break-out the elements for conversion themselves.”
PFW’s stereo delivery included some of the most biggest shots in the movie, including the minute-long continuous shot in the forest at the start, which features the iconic slo-mo shot of the Avengers flying across screen that has been featured in the film’s trailers, and the epic battle in the abandoned churchyard at the end of the movie.
“There’s a slo-mo shot in the churchyard battle that looks amazing in stereo,” said Richard Baker. “It was a difficult shot, with hundreds of VFX layers from ILM, and it was one of the last shots that we were delivered. ILM couldn’t have been more helpful, wrangling our renders on their farm, but it still took a team of senior conversion artists three days to crack that one!”
PFW utilised all three of its main hubs on Avengers: Age of Ultron. London headed the show creatively, and created head geometry for the characters, environment geometry for key scenes and additional VFX particles for key shots. Mumbai delivered all of the stereo conversion work to London under the supervision of Chief Creative Director Merzin Tavaria and his team, and also QC’d and prepped the VFX element deliveries. The Vancouver team chipped in to help with the harvesting of VFX elements and delivery of minicomps to India.
“Once again it was a huge global team effort,” concluded Merzin Tavaria. “As always with a massive show of this nature there was lots of hard work required from creative, production and technical teams - and as always we hit the client’s delivery dates with a stunning-looking creative delivery. Now we’re looking forward to getting started on Ant-Man!”
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens in the UK on April 24, 2015, and in U.S. theaters on May 1, 2015.
RELEASE: April 24, 2015 (UK) | May 1, 2015 (US)
Director: Joss Whedon
Studios / Distributors: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Senior Stereo Supervisor: Richard W. Baker
Senior VP, Production: Matthew Bristowe
Senior Producer: Valeria Andino
Stereo Supervisor: Barry O’Brien
Associate Stereo Supervisor: Marc Brzezicki
Production Manager: Richard Edwards
Production Co-ordinators: Vikki Chapman, Chris Preston-Barnes, Simon Fraser, Rameez Mukaddam
3D Editorial Team: Gus Melton, Janak Griffin-Rai, Stephanie Ross, David Glover
Global Technical Supervisor: Rajat Roy
Global Head of View-D™ Pipeline: Eoin Greenham
Pipeline Supervisor: Robin Emerson
Technical Directors: Luke Gray, Laszlo Rikker, Francesco Capone
Chief Creative Director and Co-Founder: Merzin Tavaria
Senior Stereographer: Jimmy Philip
Senior Vice President View-D™: Gaurav Jain
Head of Production: Franklin Mascarenhas
Producer: Annsh Patel
Production Manager: Nitin Bahl, Gufran Khan
Project Coordinator: Gauree Patil, Nishita Shetty
Technical Supervisor: Parminder Chadda
Pipeline Technical Director: Piyush Jain and Swapnil Kulkarni
Paint : Nixon Fernando and Savio Cruz
Roto: Abhishek Pathak
3D Supervisors: Dhiraj Sukheja, Varion Pereira, Sameer Samant, Swapnil Shelar, Puneet Samra, Gourav Gupta, Abhishek Warang, Rahul Wagh, Athmi Rai
Line Producers: Akshay Ravi, Reshma Jhangimal, Akash Mangavkar, Kevin Daniel D'souza, Kevin Maliakal, Sudarshan Dharmarajan, Ravi Kumar Singh, Nitin Singh