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Wimp Building: The Making of "Skinny Steve" in Captain America

Aug. 22, 2011by: Mike Sampson

When we look back at the special effects of Summer 2011, perhaps all the attention will be focused on RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; a surprise success that somehow made critics realize a mo-cap performance could be nominated for an Oscar.

But one would be remiss to not mention the other most effective use of VFX this summer: skinny Steve Rogers.

Many times, summer blockbusters use FX just for the sheer spectacle. "Can we have Green Lantern save a helicopter by inexplicably creating a race track and racecar? SURE!" But the Skinny Steve digital effects are part of the story and integral to connecting to Steve Rogers before he becomes Captain America.

To achieve the effect, director Joe Johnston turned to Lola FX, not surprisingly the same firm that David Fincher used to create the Winklevoss effect in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. So how did they do it?

The "Skinny Steve" effect was made up of three different approaches. The first would be a body double (British actor Leander Deeny), the second would be digital head replacement (a la THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and the last would be shrinking the actual Chris Evans down to skinny size.

To help prep the FX artists for their work, Johnston employed some traditional techniques on set. Chris Evans would walk hunched down in some scenes and walked with a shorter stride. In the scene in the back of the taxi with Peggy Carter, Evans' seat was a few inches lower than the rest of the car. Evans as Skinny Steve would wear the largest sizes possible for his wardrobe. Co-stars would look at Evans' chin, so that when he was shrunk, it would look as if they were looking at him in the eye.


Chris Evans filming the scene


Body double Leander Deeny filming the scene


The combined shots plus the FX shrinkage for the final shot

Whenever possible, Chris Evans was used in the film with the body double used only as a lighting reference, which means about 85% of the time you see skinny Steve, it's actually Chris Evans. That presents some additional challenges because Evans had bulked up for the role of Cap. His muscular physique created many different shadows that a skinny body would not (for example, skinny Steve has no biceps so there would be no bicep shadow). Also central to the challenge was making the skinny Steve appear to be frail while still looking like a man and not like a 14-year-old boy.

In my estimation, the Skinny Steve portion of the film is some of the best stuff CAPTAIN AMERICA has to offer and the success of the movie is due in no large part to the success of making the audience believe that frail dude is the same guy we see as the beefcaked Captain America.

If you want to learn more about the FX behind CAPTAIN AMERICA, I highly recommend this article at FX Guide that goes into great detail on how the effects were achieved and the many speedbumps they encountered along the way.

Source: JoBlo.com

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11:06PM on 08/22/2011
on a complete sidenote: I saw the headline of "Skinny Steve" as "Skinny Pete", from Breaking Bad. odd.
on a complete sidenote: I saw the headline of "Skinny Steve" as "Skinny Pete", from Breaking Bad. odd.
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7:56PM on 08/22/2011
Wonder if their doing something similar with Bane in TDKR to make him look bigger.
Wonder if their doing something similar with Bane in TDKR to make him look bigger.
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7:11PM on 08/22/2011
It's all very impressive, but not as impressive as Hayley Atwell's boobs.
It's all very impressive, but not as impressive as Hayley Atwell's boobs.
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9:35PM on 08/22/2011
Well said!
Well said!
6:01PM on 08/22/2011
If you thought Green Lantern "inexplicably" created the race track you must not have been paying attention as it was clearly set up earlier in the film. I get it though. GL is the current film thats cool to hate.

As for the Captain America effects - thumbs up.
If you thought Green Lantern "inexplicably" created the race track you must not have been paying attention as it was clearly set up earlier in the film. I get it though. GL is the current film thats cool to hate.

As for the Captain America effects - thumbs up.
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11:00PM on 08/22/2011
Ermm no. Nobody hates GL because it's cool to hate, they just hate it because it absolutely sucks. I know some people want to sound cool by hating on big, creative, successful films. GL is none of those three things.
Ermm no. Nobody hates GL because it's cool to hate, they just hate it because it absolutely sucks. I know some people want to sound cool by hating on big, creative, successful films. GL is none of those three things.
5:29AM on 08/23/2011
Well said polarboy. My words exactly.
Well said polarboy. My words exactly.
8:32PM on 08/23/2011
I don't hate either. It's more disappointing than anything else. You want the heroes to be more "heroic" and for being the "greatest lantern of them all" the movie made Hal rather meek and an insufferable tool as was the Carol Ferris character.
I don't hate either. It's more disappointing than anything else. You want the heroes to be more "heroic" and for being the "greatest lantern of them all" the movie made Hal rather meek and an insufferable tool as was the Carol Ferris character.
+2
5:52PM on 08/22/2011
I have to agree that I was very impressed by the effects. At times I still thought they looked odd and fake, but they did a very good job making the effects convincing.
I have to agree that I was very impressed by the effects. At times I still thought they looked odd and fake, but they did a very good job making the effects convincing.
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+6
5:28PM on 08/22/2011

oh...

i forgot to look at the changes in the pictures of Cap because I was entranced by Peggy Carter
i forgot to look at the changes in the pictures of Cap because I was entranced by Peggy Carter
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5:19PM on 08/22/2011

Thats fucking cool.

I wonder which was CGI. Thanks for this :)
I wonder which was CGI. Thanks for this :)
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2:23PM on 08/22/2011

Truly amazing.

I remember the big deal it was seeing "Jurassic Park" in theaters w/Pretend Dinos! Wow. But to be able to shrink someone realistically which sure was. They made him too skinny IMO. Oscar win goes to this or "Apes."
I remember the big deal it was seeing "Jurassic Park" in theaters w/Pretend Dinos! Wow. But to be able to shrink someone realistically which sure was. They made him too skinny IMO. Oscar win goes to this or "Apes."
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1:47PM on 08/22/2011
It did look really good! Good Job!
It did look really good! Good Job!
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1:40PM on 08/22/2011

This article was awesome

MORE LIKE THESE, PLEASE.
MORE LIKE THESE, PLEASE.
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1:03PM on 08/22/2011

Incredible FX...

Believe me I was watching closely throughout all his "skinny" scenes and the transitions / proportions were spot on. They did an amazing job with what could have been a disaster.
Believe me I was watching closely throughout all his "skinny" scenes and the transitions / proportions were spot on. They did an amazing job with what could have been a disaster.
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12:58PM on 08/22/2011
Great read, I was wondering how they did it. Even though the Winklevi twin effect was so good that I missed while watching The Social Effect I still have to say that Lola FX did an even better job on Captain America.
Too bad the rest of the movie was kind of bland. It felt more like a summation of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America than a Captain America movie.
Great read, I was wondering how they did it. Even though the Winklevi twin effect was so good that I missed while watching The Social Effect I still have to say that Lola FX did an even better job on Captain America.
Too bad the rest of the movie was kind of bland. It felt more like a summation of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America than a Captain America movie.
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12:34PM on 08/22/2011
The team of 'Captain America' did a fantastic job on skinny and frail Steve Rogers. Definitely something they should be awarded for. It's not like everyone has pulled that kind of act off before successfully.
The team of 'Captain America' did a fantastic job on skinny and frail Steve Rogers. Definitely something they should be awarded for. It's not like everyone has pulled that kind of act off before successfully.
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