Deadpool hit theaters this weekend with irreverent riffs on the superhero genre and raunchy rapid-fire humor. Marvel pushed boundaries in a crowded genre by bringing a character to the screen who could make fun of everything. Including Marvel itself. Ryan Reynolds's performance as Deadpool is packed with cheerful swearing, lavish violence, and frequent fourth-wall ruptures. It's fun. And funny.
Behind the wise-cracking humor are some serious visual effects. In our latest Automation assistance podcast, we spoke to Jonathon Rothbart, the movie's visual effects supervisor, who has worked on other big-ticket productions like Avatar (2009) and Iron Man (2008). One of the movie's biggest challenges was capturing Deadpool's iconic head and face. The mask Reynolds wore had to be completely rigid from the nose up in order to hold its distinctive shape, with the quirky nub on top, but this obscured his facial movements during filming. In the mask, the only thing that you could see moving was Reynolds's mouth. But Deadpool "is very expressive and emotive in his eyes," Rothbart says. The question was: "How do we get Reynold's expressions and his acting into the camera?"
The answer was the visual equivalent of dubbing. Each scene in which Deadpool talks was filmed twice, once with Reynolds wearing the mask and once without. Then, frame by frame, WETA Digital copied his facial movements onto the mask, in some places "enhancing it even more to hit specific Deadpool looks," says Rothbart.
For more from Rothbart, including his favorite visual effect of the year (hint: it involves an angry bear), . This week also includes an in-depth look at how political polling is done, a somewhat-comforting update on the Zika virus, and the crushed dreams of a few editors who learn the truth about a new unlimited airfare plan.