Captain America: Civil War is a special effects extravaganza, but just how many of those special effects are completely digital might surprise you.
For example, that entire airport where the film's massive superhero brawl takes place? Almost entirely CG. Though the Russo Brothers did film at an airport in Germany, only a few members of the film's massive cast were there, with the majority of work on the scene happening in front of a green screen in Atlanta, Georgia.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) sent a team of researchers to the real airport and took thousands of pictures, which were then used to digitally recreate the environment as faithfully as possible.
When it came to the various superheroes themselves, most (with the exception of heroes who showed their faces like Captain America, Winter Soldier, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch) were all digital, including Spider-Man and Black Panther. Physical suits were originally designed for both heroes, but it soon became clear that digital would be the way to go.
"Our suit had to look and feel real," ILM visual effects supervisor Russell Earl tells The Verge. "We did a lot of tests and studies to hone in. The suit is designed by Stark, so he's sort of one-upped it a little bit - so how do you bring the Stark tech look into that suit? And obviously, we wanted it to feel like real world materials, and not do anything that was out of that realm. It needed to feel like it was a photographed suit."
Tom Holland did the dialogue and motion capture for the character, which was then used to bring Spider-Man to life. Much the same applied to Black Panther, who was going to be a man-in-a-suit up until the last minute. When the decision was made to digitally make the character's chest larger and his head smaller, it became a natural choice to go ahead and make the character fully digital.
Earl says there is still incredible value in real actors performing on real sets. He says something "real" to base digital effects on is hugely important.
"Maybe I am just fooling myself, but I think a lot of the time not everyone knew exactly what they were looking at," Earl says. "I don't know if everyone knew that the airport was always digital. I think by the end they caught on, but that was our goal: that you wouldn't really know what you were looking at. In a good way."
It seems like it worked beautifully. Spider-Man being digital only didn't seem to have any effect on how well-received this new incarnation of the character has been. You can read more about that here.