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Josh Brolin hardly looked tough shooting his role as super-villain Thanos in Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” dressed as he was in a skintight motion capture bodysuit with multicolored tracking markings, two HD cameras attached to headgear pointing at his dotted face, and a pole sticking up from the back of his vest holding a cardboard cutout of his character’s countenance above his head. But the sibling directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo still acted as if he were a badass.
“Brolin would love it that we would treat Thanos like he was a gangster character,” says younger brother Joe Russo. “We’d use terminology that would be reflective of that and say he’s a psychopath and he wants control, not he’s a giant purple creature who relates to the universe this way, so he could correlate it to a genre and character motivation that he could access.”
Epics - Aquaman - Venom - Period - Fantasies
Whether it’s superhero epics such as “Aquaman” and “Venom” or period fantasies including “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Christopher Robin,” today’s directors frequently find themselves trying to help actors elicit convincing performances as they talk to tennis balls representing CG characters to be added later — or, in Brolin’s case, actors in goofy motion-capture suits — on soundstages with little or nothing in the way of sets or props.
The Russos, who have directed four Marvel VFX spectaculars beginning with 2014’s “Captain Marvel: Winter Soldier,” say the key to success in this environment is simplicity.
Screen - Props - Props - Joe - Russo
“It’s already abstract working with a green screen and green props that are standing in for digital props,” says Joe Russo. “And if you’re dealing with abstraction and your direction is abstract, I think it tends to turn into mush. So you have to create an emotional life in the simplest way possible that will translate on screen.”
Today, directors typically use real-time rendering on...
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