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How 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' VFX Team Brought Electro to Life

“We created probably 20 different layers of lightning … to help the compositor create the sense of energy inside his skin," says Imageworks' Jerome Chen.

When Jaime Foxx saw the finished look of his The Amazing Spider-Man 2 villain, Electro, he was thrilled, and the VFX team at Sony Pictures Imageworks subsequently printed a big image of the face for the actor to put up in his office, related the film’s VFX supervisor, Imageworks’ Jerome Chen.

“Electro is negative energy, but Jaime was positive energy,” said Chen. “He was singing and dancing (on set). He’s amazing to be around.”

Seeing the version of Electro created by the VFX team also gave Fox some inspiration for his performance. Recalled Chen: “When he saw it, it gave him the idea of maybe having his voice sound a little different, burned, like his voice was damaged in the transition."

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The latest sequel in the Sony franchise — which opens this weekend in North America and has already earned nearly $150 million overseas — includes roughly 1,600 visual effects shots that were completed on a tight schedule, roughly 34 weeks, according to Chen. Imageworks tackled about 1,000 of these shots, MPC handled 300 and the remaining shots were divided between a few other VFX houses including Blur and Pixel Playground.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features a trio of villains including Electro, The Green Goblin (Dean DeHaan) and Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino (Paul Giamatti).

To turn Foxx into Electro, Chen said, “we wanted it to start from Jaime. … if we stick to reality as much as we can, we get a more convincing performance."

They photographed Foxx in makeup, created by KNB EFX. Then in the computer, “we created probably 20 different layers of lightning and utility passes to help the compositor create the sense of energy inside his skin.

"We were inspired by lightning going off on a storm front," Chen said. "We wanted the feeling that there’s a storm inside his flesh."

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While Electro is basically blue, the team used color to show his moods. “[For instance], if he was angry, the red would flare up," said Chen. "The colors were influenced by underwater footage of tropical fish and coral to give him more range.”

Electro’s ghosting effect was simulated using VFX software package Hondini. Explained Chen: “The inspiration was time-lapse of photography of traffic so you get the blurred light … the sense that he was moving so fast he becomes a streak of light.”

All of the characters required digital doubles for the action scenes. In the case of the Green Goblin, often he was fully CG and other times it was a CG extension on DeHaan. “He would control the glider much like a slalom skier uses his entire body.”

For Giamatti’s character, the actor was filmed on set and then his head was placed in a photoreal CG armored suit.

To bring more realism to the film, Imageworks employed a newly-developed software, dubbed "Doctor Gravity." Explained Chen: “It’s a tool that blends real physics into the motion, so the animators had a way to check accurately how fast something would fall to the ground or the speed at which a character was moving.”

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter:@CGinLA