Avengers: Infinity War is the world’s second-fastest-grossing film. And for good reason. We’ve laughed and cried at the many movies in the MCU that led us to the ultimate battle; the end game. The stakes were undoubtedly at an all-time high for the team at Digital Domain tasked with bringing the MCU’s greatest villain to life. And this particular scoundrel was given a lot of screen time — close-up screen time, with long talking sequences that meant every detail counted. Did you notice Thanos’ peach fuzz? It was just one of many very subtle details used to make Thanos a next-level boss.
We talk to Fernando Brandao, Lead Lighting/LookDev Artist at Digital Domain, about the extraordinary detail required for Thanos and how the teams tackled some of the inherent challenges of rendering Marvel’s extraordinary characters using V-Ray for Maya.
We were worried about adding peach fuzz to the asset, but once we did we noticed that the render was not increasing that much. V-Ray handled the challenge like a champion without a significant impact on render time and noise.
Can you tell us about some of the other challenging characters the team worked on, like Red Skull, Nebula, and how about those Leviathans?
FB: Red Skull was super fun to watch come to life. It was very challenging to achieve the different levels of scatter and specular on his skin since he has different levels of burned skin, but our artists worked together to achieve that control using several different masks to modify the scatter for different areas on his face.
Having Nebula all dismembered inside the torture chamber was very heavy. She had it all, including refraction, SSS, tons of reflection and multiple levels of glossiness, and an insane amount of model detail created by our amazing model department. Using material overrides was crucial to get some optimization on her.
The Leviathan was an ingest we got from ILM and it was a heavy asset. The same is true for the QShip, so we used VRScenes and our deferred pipeline to handle these assets on the farms.
Why is V-Ray your renderer of choice?
FB: V-Ray is very easy to use, extremely artist-friendly, and the learning curve is great. I've seen V-Ray grow from a small arch viz product-focused renderer to the extremely flexible swiss army knife it is today. I’ve seen constant improvement in GI solutions, DMC changes over time, increasing support for shaders, adaptive lighting, material overrides — the list of enhancements is honestly very long.