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Luma contributes VFX to 'Captain America'

July 22, 2011
Luma contributes VFX to 'Captain America'

VENICE, CA — Visual effects house Luma Pictures (www.lumapictures.com) contributed to Marvel Studio’s new feature Captain America: The First Avenger, which opened in theaters today. The facility worked on an ocean pier scene, which called for the creation of multiple large ships. Luma also provided invisible effects and background replacements that complete the scene.

"When taking on any project we always look for what is unique about that scene or shot that our artists can immerse themselves in,” executive VFX supervisor, Payam Shohadai. “Captain America: The First Avenger's historical era gave everyone that creative spark that kept expanding throughout the project." 

The studio received direction from the film’s VFX supervisor Chris Townsend and then researched how boats of that time period were constructed.

“In addition to constructing the hull and exterior structures, we also scrutinized all the set dressing that it was populated with to ensure everything was legitimate period items," notes Luma VFX supervisor Vincent Cirelli.

In total, Luma built four ships: three steamboats/freighters and one small fishing boat. The studio used Maya and Z-Brush for modeling, and Photoshop for texturing. 

"In order to integrate the ships into the environments, we simulated water, layered with foam and boat wakes that matched the scale and wave frequency of the ocean water filmed in the plates,” explains CG suervisor Richard Sutherland. “The scenes were all rendered in Arnold, a brute-force ray tracer that does an excellent job of quickly rendering many gigabytes of high-resolution textures.”

One shot had to be re-created digitally. The film’s lead character Steve Rogers makes a leap off of the pier and is replaced by a stunt double as he dives into a small channel between the pier and the boat. Because of technical constraints on-set, Luma received the A-side and B-side with very different camera angles.

To solve the shot, Luma built out the entire dock, then reprojected the A-side plate onto the geometry, allowing them to skew the camera and line it up with the B-side camera.

The sequence also required performing some background replacement. They implemented a cloud-dotted sky, CG buildings on an extension of the pier, and the addition of Liberty Island.