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Do Marvel VFX Artists Prefer Directors Who Know Less About Effects?

CGI effects are par for the course in superhero films these days. It’s likely that you sit through the credits at Marvel films to check out post-credit sequences, so you’ve probably seen the very long lists of people who work in the effects departments. Computer-generated effects are a specialized skill – sometimes directors know a lot about the process, and sometimes they rely more on the specialists to create sequences and tell them what is possible for a scene.IGN got a chance to speak to the VFX department for Avengers: Endgame, including Dan DeLeeuw, and Captain Marvel’s Shannon Justison, Janelle Croshaw Ralla and Nick Crew. They told us all about working with directors, and what they prefer in terms of director knowledge about their craft.You may have heard that Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo have the mantra that the best idea wins. Marvel VFX Supervisor DeLeeuw spoke about how open they were to hearing from the effects department. He told IGN that during his work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he pitched adding guns to the helicarrier. “I go, ‘You know what we should do? They get those big guns on them. They should start shooting each other and they blow themselves out of the sky.’”LoadingHe said that once they approved it and brought it back to Marvel VFX Producer Jen Underdahl, who made it work right there. “I think getting into Endgame was the culmination in that, working with the Russos' and the…[production] team and storyboard artists and the stunt team was just having fun with the final battle and then putting all the different pieces together, and then making it as big as we possibly could.” He also joked that some of their ideas don’t make it. “Apparently Hulk fighting frost giants is going too far.”In terms of working with a director who knows everything about effects, or someone who is asking them to figure things out themselves, DeLeeuw said, “If they have ideas it's great. If they don't, they don't. Cool. If they have it down cold, it's kind of great. But if it's somewhere in between, that's where you kind of get in trouble. You know, where it's like, ‘You guys don't need motion-control for that.’ Just put him in a blue suit. It doesn't make them transparent. They still can't stand in front of something. I don't know why everybody thinks putting them in a blue suit makes them transparent.”27 Awesome MCU Callbacks in Avengers: EndgameOn the Captain Marvel side, Justison, Previs Supervisor for The Third Floor, said it’s a tough choice. “Coming from a standpoint of having worked with both sides, [I prefer] directors who don't have a clue and don't want to talk about it. But then also, directors who actually know almost too much about visual effects cause they think they know everything but they don't. It's a tough one.”Scanline VFX Supervisor Crew added, “To some extent, I want to work with somebody who doesn't know what can't be done because they're going to a make the more pure decision. You want them to make the decision that's going to benefit the story the most. You don't want someone thinking about the limitations of what they're trying to do. You want someone to think about what are the opportunities here for storytelling…In a way it's a masochistic approach in that I want a director who doesn't know that he or she is going to be putting me through misery. Because it's going to yield at a better product. I hope.”LoadingJustison said that sometimes what they want isn’t possible. She explained that you need “good communication and collaboration so that you feel like you can be honest about [how their approach] might not work, let's come up with something else and you can actually have those conversations.”Marvel Additional Visual Effects Supervisor Ralla was more specific about Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. “I think even though Anna and Ryan do come from an indie background, they were very focused on character development, and that was why they were hired, and why they were attached to this film. They were also really interested in the visual effects process because they always wanted the big set-pieces to not just be a set-piece for the sake of blowing stuff up real good. It was always supposed to feed the character and be part of the story. If it wasn't part of the story, they didn't want it. I have worked with directors who are just like, I don't know, it's a car chase. Good luck.” Of Boden and Fleck, she added, “These guys were definitely very directorial in that they were part of it, but then there was also a certain amount of freedom. And they trusted us to contribute what we could.”For more on visual effects, check out what the artists behind Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker told us about bringing back Carrie Fisher's Leia and creating breakout character Babu Frik.

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