‘Avengers’ Effects Supervisor on the Difficulties of a ‘Hulk’ TV Series

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Avengers Hulk TV Series Mark Ruffalo Avengers Effects Supervisor on the Difficulties of a Hulk TV Series

One of the most well-known Marvel characters, the Hulk still struggled in his first two blockbuster film outings. Fans often deliver mixed testimonials regarding Ang Lee’s Hulk and Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk but Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures were both unimpressed with final box office tallies for each movie. As a result, when it was confirmed that the character would once again return to the big screen as part of The Avengers ensemble, comic book lovers and studio executives both held their breath to see if director Joss Whedon, armed with a talented roster of visual effects studios, could finally do the character justice. Fortunately, Whedon delivered.

However, as positive Hulk movie buzz reached an all-time high, so did talk of a long-in-development ABC TV series (rumored to be a prequel story without Mark Ruffalo) from Guillermo del Toro. Now that the bar has been raised for what viewers will expect from future iterations of the mean green machine, is it even realistic for del Toro to attempt a weekly TV series?

We had a chance to sit down with Industrial Light and Magic’s Jeff White, a Visual Effects Supervisor for The Avengers, to discuss their well-received approach to the character (look for that interview soon) – as well as what challenges del Toro will likely face if he centers an entire TV series around a “different” Banner/Hulk storyline:

I think we’d have to have a lot of Banner. You know I think from beginning to end we got much faster at doing shots. We learned a lot about the process and about how to light him and how to make him look good. One of the things that was interesting was when we started off we kind of took our typical approach of really art directing the lighting, like rim, rim, rim, you know super stylized. And he really looked fake and kind of popped out. And what we found is that we ended up having to kind of flatten out his lighting to get him to sit in there with the rest of the Avengers. So I think after learning things like that, you know we could – if you’re talking about a TV schedule and how fast you need to turn around production, it would be a matter of, you know trying to build off everything we did for the movie and then, you know get him in there, get him lit. You wouldn’t have time to do the – you know all the really detailed shape, you know per frame corrections that we do.

After several iterations of the character, each one looking more believable than the last, White also addressed the challenge of meeting raised expectations. After an overwhelmingly positive response to The Avengers Hulk, fans aren’t going to want to see the character take a step backward in terms of on-screen performance. We’ve seen similar characters brought to life on the TV screen but none have come anywhere close to the quality of the latest big screen Hulk (Doomsday’s season on Smallville is one especially underwhelming example).

I think that would be one of the big challenges. How do you turn that much animation around and still have it be believable? Because there is like animation, then simulation then, you know sort of hand correction after that. And I think where we found the biggest time suck ends up being is all the facial work, getting the eyes to look right and then how much that changes once you start lighting him.

Of course, some fans will quickly point to the fact that Marvel already has computer assets for the Hulk, not to mention the compiled knowledge of the various effects teams that contributed to The Avengers. However, it’s not realistic for del Toro to simply copy and paste The Avengers Hulk into a potential TV show – even if Marvel has all the computer models. Aside from the technical challenges of fitting the digital character into live-action environments, there’s one especially big problem – The Avengers Hulk was designed specifically for Mark Ruffalo’s body and face.

3 Versions of Movie Hulk Avengers Effects Supervisor on the Difficulties of a Hulk TV Series

In the one on one portion of our interview, White clarified that (assuming the show is a prequel set in the same universe) the TV effects team could possibly “youngify” the Hulk model (the visual supervisor even joked about “Muppet Baby Hulk”) but the character would still be based on an entirely different actor (unless Ruffalo signs on for the show – which is extremely unlikely). It’s a problem that would, as hinted at earlier, undoubtedly be a step backward in terms of onscreen character quality. White believes that the biggest success of The Avengers Hulk was the subtle visual connections to the man behind the monster. The bridge between Ruffalo and Hulk was one of their biggest hurdles (and could be a potential deal breaker for using any version of their character model on TV):

[Even if you could youngify him], it would still be a challenge because you’d really have to put some thought and design work into it. For us, some of the hardest shots were not Hulk or Banner but what does he look like when he’s half-way there because on one you have a reference of a real guy and on the other you have all this artwork and then half-way in between there’s this weird amalgamation of how much brow and how much cheek and what do his eyes look like. For us, those were some of the more difficult shots was figuring out the half-way in between. Especially because Joss didn’t just want the transformations to be like either a slider or a guy who is a balloon. So that ended up being quite difficult.

Some fans might still complain that the movie versions don’t encapsulate key aspects of the comic character or that the on-screen CGI model looks too “plasticky”; however, for many, the Hulk (along with Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner) was one of the most enjoyable aspects of The Avengers. It’ll certainly be interesting to hear how the potential Hulk series comes along but, as indicated by commenters on the site, as well as professionals like Jeff White, Guillermo del Toro and ABC are going to face some serious challenges if they actually move forward with a series. While it’s understandable that ABC would love to get more spots on The Avengers money train (especially with a S.H.I.E.L.D. show also on the network), Marvel will need to be especially vigilant about the quality of the potential show – especially if they want to ride the positive reception of the green machine in Avengers and deliver another solo Hulk film after Avengers 2.

For more on ILM’s work on the Hulk character, be sure to check out The Avengers Blu-ray (read our review) and check back soon for more Avengers interviews.

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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future interviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

The Avengers is now available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD.

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TAGS: the avengers, the avengers 2, the incredible hulk, the incredible hulk 2

70 Comments

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  1. It would be simpler to do a prosthetic Hulk than a CG Hulk which would be too expensive to do on a television schedule and budget.

    If they can’t do CGI then do prosthetics and the Hulk would look like a Buffy monster reject.

    • Assuming they do a perfectly executed prosthetic,a Hellboy level one, and manage to avoid the Lou Ferrigno look, they still would need CGI for the transition scenes.

      • CGI would come only in the transformations.

        Putting a fake muscle suit on someone perhaps who’s playing Banner and prosthetic Hulk face would be the most cost effective way to do the series. Hulk suit would not be like the one from Scary Movie 3 but have the design and texture of the Norton Hulk of course be on a Hellboy level.

        • As much as I like prosthetics – they’d be going backwards and that wouldnt be good for continuity or (in my opinion) recieved as well after they did such a good job on the Avengers.

          • Del Toro has stated a number of times that the show will be it’s own continuity, not connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Hulk would be a mix of prosthetics, puppetry and CGI.

            If they do a CG Hulk for television it wouldn’t have the same quality as the movies, it would have the same quaulity as the Cylons from Battlestar, Dinosaurs from Terra Nova or the werewolves from the american Being Human.

            • Correct, he did say that and I’m sure his Hulk is going to look as cool as anyone can get it with prosthetics. But for other than us fanboys/girls here – the viewing masses might not be able to transition as well. Hence, losing ratings. After all that is what ABC is going for.

              • ABC is trying take advantage of the success of The Avengers by having a CG Hulk and other Marvel characters like the S.H.I.E.L.D. show.

  2. I say just can the idea already, If you can’t do it the right way then leave it alone. The Hulk is too important to the Marvel movie universe at this point to be diluted by a TV series. Keep him in the movies. -My ideal Avengers direction would be parts 2 and 3 Infinity Gauntlet, parts 4, 5, and 6 Planet Hulk through World War Hulk. (Pipe Dreaming, I know)

    • I agree, if it in any way hinders the Ruffalo movie version, don’t do it. I t was a tough character to get right on screen, and now that they nailed it, they shouldn’t mess with that. Just let him show up in a couple of movies, then Avengers 2, then give him a solo movie.

  3. I think the problem with the hulk movies that The Avengers didnt have, was that they made the Hulk act stupid with stupid expressions.

  4. Seeing those 3 pics together made me think this

    This hulk is too soft,
    this hulk is too hard
    but this hulk,
    this hulk is just right.

    • lol. “Like.”

    • LOL…hahahaha…

  5. this makes me nervous. if you’re not going to do it right, leave it be. i’d rather wait for a quality incredible hulk sequel in phase 3

  6. I personally believe that they shouldnt do the tv show at all because it will mess up some of the things from the Marvel Movie Universe.

  7. I’m not interested in a Hulk tv show. They should use the money to juice up the SHIELD show instead.

  8. They are really leaving that escape hatch open for this project. If they don’t feel strongly enough to back another Hulk movie, what do they really think the margins are going to look like for a weekly television version?

    • They do want to back another Hulk movie. We just have to wait for all the other Mavel movie projects to happen first. Hulk 2 comes some time after The Avengers 2.

  9. Hulk is just awesome hes my favowite!!

  10. Of course I’ll give this a watch, but I kind of doubt it will fly. How many times can you do “guy gets mad, turns green, hulks up, and wrecks the place”? That happens every night on weekends in college town bars with the frat-boys!

    • Well, previously, they managed 4-5 seasons of just such a formula, but I agree they’d be pushing their luck in the current T.V. atmosphere.

  11. A single season arc that takes you through Banner’s life up to him becoming the Hulk. That way it’s only in the last few weeks that you get Hulk centered stories…

  12. I consider an Hulk tv series easy.I would put it five years before the Incredible Hulk Movie.I would hire Odette Yusman as Beatty and her real life husband as Bruce on the run from the military and military con trolled beings.Nathan Jones(Forhead Prostectics) would be my Hulk(Twice as Big as Lou),have 2 part crossovers with shield.I would connect him to the movies by the last episode,while trying to find a cure actually increases his size and strength instead of curing him.I disagree about Smallville(Zod 2 parter and Bizzaro 2 parter are Movie/Comicbook Caliber),because the Show hads restrictions.

    • So you could snap your fingers and make all this happen? Comments like this confuse me. You act like these people would just say “yes” and agree to everything you want to do. You assume you would just get the budget to do it. I read these things all the time. “I would do this” and “I would hire this person”. Making movies and TV series isnt that simple. We all have our dream actors and dream projects but it takes tons of time and negotiating to get these things right. Actors are not robots who jump every time a fan thinks they should play a part.

      In other words a Hulk TV series would never be easy.

  13. The idea of a Hulk t.v. show is terrible. Like others have said can it and put more into S.H.I.E.L.D show. The only place the Hulk belongs on t.v. is in a cartoon.

  14. I love Hulk so i really want to see the tv show and i hope it comes out son or starts gaining some ground. I loved Hulk inthe avengers i’ll understand if they can’t make the effects on him in the tv show as good as they were in the movie but i still hope they do a good job.

    • Thats the point. They wont.

  15. THE LAST THING MARVEL NEEDS IS TO FLOP ON ANOTHER “VERSION” of the HULK…. Now Ruffalo is THE HULK leave it at that!!!! NO MORE trying to redo, or re-boot, or whatever the hell this is! IT TAKE A LOT OF $$$ AND TALENT TO DO HULK CORRECTLT as we have seen, Avengers DI IT PERFECTLY!! MARVEL PLEASE DO NO LET ANYONE But Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo DO THE HULK

    • Agreed. As much as I’d love to see a Hulk TV show, it’s just going to be sad if they srew him up yet again.

  16. Not saying its a bad idea or a good idea, I’m a huge Hulk fan and I would love to see more of him, but only if its done the right way. I dont want a bunch of Banner, I want to see Hulk smash stuff, but then again at the same time you cant have Hulk without Banner, so what it really boils down to is who can do it the right way, and when it comes to a TV series, your options are quite limited.

  17. the show doesn’t have to be all hulk, they could just explore bruce and have a few minutes per 40min episode of the hulk traversing across a country or something.

    if they had hulk in the show beginning to end the budget would be way higher then any movie, and the pros wouldn’t be anywhere near the cons of spending so much on a tv series.

    they could always go back to basics and spray paint some body builder green and give him a green wig to wear :P

    • Or put a fake muscle suit on someone perhaps who’s playing Banner and prosthetic Hulk face. be like the Hulk from Scary Movie 3 and the Hellboy make up.

  18. Why not make a Hulk anime?I remember the old Hulk cartoons and some of them were really good.Now they could make a more mature version with more adult topics.People really have to step away from the idea that a TV show has to be live action in order to be taken seriously.This way it would also be easy to feature a lot of other Marvel characters the Hulk comes into contact with.

  19. “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…” “You know…”
    NO! WE DON’T KNOW, Jeff White. Stop saying “You know…” after every-single-sentance! GAAAHHH! Learn to speak!

    • It’s because the writer simply wrote down his words verbatim instead of cleaning them up as you would usually do for, say, a newspaper or magazine article. When you read quotes from someone in the paper or a magazine, they didn’t actually say it like that. The um’s, er’s, you know’s, are cut out. Watch someone speak on TV and then read how they are quoted in text, completely not the same some times.

  20. I guess the main question here is, what is the point of having a Hulk TV show? What are they trying to tell? Do we want to see a Hulk TV show? Is this part of the MCU? If not, then where is this all leading? I think people think about creating TV shows, they don’t really about the end game. What’s it all about? I agree, I think Hulk is more appropriate for the movies. His size, and stature just seem to fill out a big screen better than TV.

    • Del Toro has stated it won’t be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will focus on the relationship between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross at the very beginning of the Hulk’s existence.

    • I disagree that Hulk is better for movies, but obviously his recent movie success complicates the matter.

      To me, I watch shows all the time that make me think the writers are influenced by comics (and they often are). Comics are episodic and experimental. I’ve always thought TV would be a better format. I prefer Star Trek as a TV show too, where it’s free to explore whole episodes that focus on a few, or one, character. Movies always require maximum “fireworks.” That’s okay, but I wouldn’t mind some smaller plot focus rather than every movie involving saving the world.

      When Smallville started I always thought it was basically like early Spider-man comics with all the melodrama and romantic misfires and entanglements, and Clark guilting over how his powers and decisions affect his adopted caregivers (a la Aunt May). That’s pure Spider-man stuff. Spider-man would make a fantastic TV show because it’s ultimately a character soap-opera.

      I’m all for this show, but your questions are legitimate and I’m sure they are still asking them. The question was a lot clearer before Avengers. This may not happen, but it looks like they’ve invested too much and want to go forward.

      • For television you can have more scope for Hulk than a movie because for 20 episodes you wouldn’t worry about too many story threads all that goes out the window in a two hour movie.

  21. When they first announced this a few years ago my first thought was Del Toro. I was surprised and delighted when he was announced a day or two later.

    The whole reason for Del Toro, I think, is because he’s a director, like Peter Jackson, who really understands older techniques of special effects, and how to combine practical with CGI. Better still, he knows when to use practical. Honestly, I’m expecting a lot of costume and puppetry for Hulk effects. I think that is the overwhelming reason they sought Del Toro.

    Also, as much as fans complain beforehand, if the stories are good, and the special effects are good-for-TV, people will be all right with it. I’m not saying people will like it if it looks terrible, but people automatically lower their expectations for TV as it is. Game of Thrones would look really cheesy, in parts, on the big screen but it looks good enough for TV. I realize there is not big screen precedent, but there are plenty of shows with iffy effects that people watch in droves.

    • Prosthetic Hulk instead of a CG Hulk is probably a sacrifice that needs to be made.

      Del Toro is a practial effects man so there is the feeling they may go the prosthetic and puppetry route, they may use CGI in the transformations.

  22. CG Hulk on television would have the same quality as the Cylons in Battlestar and like them they weren’t in it all the time, only see the Hulk 20 minutes in and seen towards the end.

    • I know you can’t sustain a whole “Hulk” show with almost all Banner, but a lot of the tension comes from the expectation that he’ll turn into the Hulk. I’m sure they’ll play that up.

      • Due to budget constraints he’ll be Banner 95% of the time will be the tension of him Hulking out.

        • Then the show would be “Banner”. Not for me.

          • Not exactly but like the orignal only see the Hulk 25 minutes in and towards the end of the episode.

  23. I really think the show could be great. They could do all kinds of stories inspired by comics, with government conspiracies, secret societies, aliens, other dimensions and space, underground civilizations,… the possibilities are endless. And they can simply make a compelling drama. In fact, it could even happen that the TV show rivals the movie version or puts expectations on it. What if the actor playing Banner becomes more liked than Ruffalo? Not saying it will all happen, but it could.

    • They may have the fugitive aspect like the old show but with more elements like him being pursued by Thunderbolt Ross and his troops, have other gamma mutants created by something like gamma rays from sunspots.

      For one thing I don’t want to see like a loose continuation of the Bixby/Ferrigno Hulk which is what Bryan Singer tried to do with Superman Returns by honoring the Donner films.

      • I think they’ll stick to what worked really well and do the Bixby/fugitive thing, only they’ll expand on it and have a lot more comic/fantasy elements. My guess.

        • Chased by Thunderbolt Ross and his military unit all over the country in their mobile command center.

  24. watched the Avengers last night.
    “I’m always angry…” gives me chills.

    • That line gives me chills as well… every single time I watch it.

      • I re watched last night too! It is one of my favorite movies!

        Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

        Thor: Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother!

        Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.

        Thor: He’s adopted.

    • Watch it three or four times now, great.

  25. Forget a TV show – He’s now stolen the show in Avengers – He’s a movie star at last – and you don’t stick Hulk back on a cheap , small screen show…Not now….splash the cash Marvel and give him his own movie again and keep the Hulk we love smashing stuff up !

    • Good sense!

  26. Hulk has no business on TV at this time. The Avengers gave us ALL what we wanted out of the Hulk. Very few disliked the excellent job that was done on the Hulk in Avengers (the ones who didnt just love to hate I guess). ANYTHING else is a step back. I personally do not want to see a TV series with anything less than what we have now out of Ruffalo and Joss Whedon & Company. Like the article said The Avengers Hulk was modeled after Ruffalo. To me that is the main reason Hulk looked so good. Ang Lee’s Hulk didnt look that much like Eric Bana and Louis Leterrier’s Hulk looked NOTHING like Edward Norton. The hair cut wasnt even the same between the two. They were obvious errors and true fans notice (lots of regular movie goers noticed too) every time. And TV just cant do that with small budgets and very little time to get weekly shows complete. If anything I wouldnt mind seeing a mini series on TV. That way they could take the time to do it right and with the right marketing make thier money back.

  27. There was a great interview on NPR with the Douglas Trumbull, the special effects guy who did 2001, Blade Runner and a lot of movies. He is still experimenting and working, pushing new ideas. He is by no means a Luddite but he firmly believes that more practical effects should be used because they are simply cheaper and better. The lighting effects are there and can be easily altered. But he says computers could be used to combine and re-composite shots.

    • It would be simpler to do prosthetics because even through they maybe able to do it the cost of doing a CG Hulk week to week on television would be stupendous, it would create alot of production problems to create hundred shots of CGI.

      One thing if they go the prosthetics route would the Hulk be watered down or look goofy?.

      • There is no question in my mind that they’ll rely heavily on practical. Del Toro’s involvement is absolute proof. They’ll still use some CGI but to me it’s obvious they are trying to get the most out of a smaller budget.

        And what you said about it looking like Buffy rejects. At least with Hulk they would be doing the same character, so they’ll have all the props for him. Buffy had to come up with new creatures all the time for one episode or two.

        Everyone is insisting it be like in the movies, but the public will tune in to a good looking Hulk TV show, even if it’s not quite up there with the movies. Everyone here will too. As long as it’s high quality for TV, the writing and actors are good, it should do fine.

  28. How long will the new writer will be free to rewrite the pilot script? January and Febraury is time of the year were all the pilots get greenlight.

  29. Geezus crystal christ! i have been reading your website for just a few days now and my eyes already hurt so bad from reading your posts here on screenrant. hasn’t anybody ever told you guys what a bad color combination GREY background with WHITE / YELLOW fonts could be? seriously? Take this a constructive feedback. After a few minutes of reading, it starts to strain the eyes. Please look into this and work on better color balancing for your pages.

    • i like the grey background and my eyes don´t get hurt. you should go to an eye-doctor.

      • my vision is 20-20 last time i checked. you better not be a four-eyed geek. anyways, i visit a lot of film news sites, and this one is the only one with this color scheme.

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