'Man of Steel' VFX Supervisor Talks About Creating Fighting Kryptonians

John 'D.J.' Des Jardin tells THR about how the superhero reboot was visually built.
Warner Bros. Pictures
"Man of Steel"

The VFX supervisor for Man of SteelJohn 'D.J.' Des Jardin (Sucker Punch, Watchmen), spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the visual dynamics for the superhero reboot film. Here’s five things to know about the visual effects in the new Superman title: 

1. The VFX houses are...

Weta Digital, Scanline, MPC and Double Negative, which did the majority of the film’s visual effects. Look FX and Blur Studio also contributed.

2. Man of Steel was shot on film and has a whopping 1500 VFX shots.

Zack Snyder decided to forego the digital camera route. Man of Steel was instead shot on film in 35mm anamorphic and contained 1500 visual effects shots. It was converted to 3D in postproduction at Legend3D.

3. A big challenge was determining how the Kryptonians fight.

“It was Kryptonians fighting Kryptonians on Earth, where their powers are jacked up,” Des Jardin explained. To achieve this, the VFX team knew they would have to switch back and forth between live action and CG actors as well as real and CG versions of the locations.

A key tool was what Des Jardin referred to as an “enviro-cam"--a Nikon camera on a motorized head that takes a sphere of 72 high-res pictures. “Once we had the animated characters at the right speed, then we could put the CG camera in that environment with the envirocam. So we kept our camera style," he said.

4. Another tool: The “Shandy-cam.”

Des Jardin explained that the “Shandy-cam" was developed for him while he was working with Snyder on Sucker Punch. “I needed a fixed camera rig that I could used at the end of a hero take and take stills of the [actors] because we knew we would have to turn them into CG and I needed the lighting [information] from set," he explained. This tool was also used for the Krypton fight in Man of Steel.

5. Zack Snyder wanted a handheld style.

Many moviegoers have seen memorable shots of Superman in flight from previous films, but that didn’t apply to Man of Steel.

“Zack told us early on that this movie wasn't going to have the same style—the deliberate camera, slow motion moments or anything like that. It was going to be 24 frames per second, handheld, so there were going to be focal length changes in the middle of takes, shaky cameras, things like that," Des Jardin said. 

“We tried to keep it handheld all the time," he explained, adding that this type of camera work was employed to images that were again a combination of live action (shot on a greenscreen stage) and CG.