While the She-Hulk series was enjoyed by many, multiple complaints about its CGI were lodged over its run. A VFX supervisor discussed certain issues with the show’s use of motion capture.
Marvel‘s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law recently concluded its nine-episode run. Fans witnessed Jennifer Walters’ fourth-wall-breaking journey as she learned to harness both control over her work life and superhuman strength.
From a technical standpoint, the series was significant for featuring a computer-generated lead character, brought to life through the use of mo-cap.
And even though Jen wasn’t CGI for the entire series, it was still not easy. There were many detractors of the CGI work, calling out She-Hulk’s face, clothes, and movements in certain scenes.
Now, Visual effects supervisor Shannon Justison offered an explanation of why Jennifer Walters looked off at various points.
VFX Artist Details She-Hulk’s Imprecise CGI
In the new Disney+ making-of documentary Marvel Studios’ Assembled: The Making of She-Hulk, VFX Supervisor Shannon Justison discussed the types of mo-cap which were used in production on the show.
Justison noted that extreme emphasis was placed on getting the most out of star Tatiana Maslany’s performance through the use of motion capture:
“For She-Hulk, we were really keen on it being Tatiana’s performance. Our whole goal was to not keyframe her face. She’s amazing. You want all that performance. And so, she was wearing, of course, a full mo-cap suit, which gets her physical, her body performance. And then, she had a HMC or what we call a head-mounted camera on. And that’s recording all the little dots. And then those dots are then piped into a system that can then read that in and translate that into facial motion… So, the gold standard for motion capture right now is what we call optical capture. That’s what you would probably recognize as having the little, what looks like ping pong balls, so what we call retro reflective markers, all over at certain points at the body. It also requires about 50 cameras set up in a volume. And those all have to be perfectly set up and calibrated. Obviously, there’s a big uptime with hanging all those cameras.“
However, as Justison explained, for certain types of scenes, a different, somewhat less refined "inertial" mo-cap process had to be employed. This is likely what caused some viewers to take issue with Jen’s gait and some of her clothing, notably the business suits she wore in the first few episodes.
“And then any scene where there’s a lot of crowds, she’s sitting at a desk, suddenly her legs are blocked, we can’t see her pelvis anymore; that’s when we would use an inertial suit. Inertial suits, they rely on little sensors that are built into the suit, that also is just on a signal. So there’s a little station that we set up and it talks to all of the sensors. The only tricky thing with that, it’s not as precise as the optical capture. So the inertial tended to go with us on location, for quick setup and tear down, optical any time we were in a big set, we were gonna be there for a few days.”
Victoria Alonso, Marvel Studios’ President of Physical, Post Production, VFX, and Animation, also described what it took to make sure they got She-Hulk’s sense of size and scale accurate. Care was taken to prevent Jen from looking like a “charicature:”
“We did everything. We did mo-cap, we did facial capture, we did Tatiana doing all the takes as well as doing a stunt double doing the takes as well as animation trying to track the motion capture. Tatiana has her frame, and it’s quite different to what She-Hulk is, so Tatiana doing this (extends arms) is one thing. When you have She-Hulk, it feels this (extends arms even further)! And people don’t talk this way! But that’s how it translates when you are the height that she is and the size that she is. So we had to do a lot of maybe, taming the straight translation from what Tatiana did to She-Hulk, so that it would feel within character and it didn’t become a caricature.”
Will She-Hulk Have Better CGI Moving Forward?
It’s worth noting that She-Hulk’s CGI work was, at times, exceptionally smooth and unobtrusive. Usually, any scene where Jen wore her hair down tended to look better.
And then there was Bruce/Smart Hulk, who appeared as clean and polished as he did in Avengers: Endgame. This was likely because Marvel already had all the cinema-quality CGI assets left over from the 2019 movie.
So it stands to reason that as soon as Jennifer Walters makes the jump to the big screen, her VFX will get an upgrade from the higher budget that only a feature film can offer. These assets can then be ported back to the small screen if She-Hulk is renewed for Season 2.
Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.