Digital Visual Effects Supervisor Matt Butler is no stranger to VFX transformations, and his North Star always ensures the actor’s performance and idiosyncrasy. In this case of the new superhero movie Morbius, Butler had to make sure audiences could still see the elements of Jared Leto’s transformation, while staying true to the character seen in the Marvel comic books. “It had to be materially plausible and believable,” Butler says.
In the film, Leto immerses himself in the role of Dr. Michael Morbius, a biochemist who inadvertently turns himself into a vampire when a life-saving scientific experiment goes wrong. Butler and his team were responsible for turning Josh Brolin into Thanos for the “Avengers” films, and he wanted to headline that. “What does his full beast look like? This wasn’t a simple question or answer because there were different stages,” Butler says.
They knew they needed to give him a pale complexion, but not cover him with white paint. Butler says, “We wanted to give him a translucent complexion because it should feel and look like skin. We had to believe it was Jared. So, we went with this very pale Englishman skin and drained all the blood from it.” The team sculpted and worked on skin texture and shadows, adding veins, influenced by the artwork they pulled from it.
Butler explains that they know how important the eyes are to reading emotions. “We didn’t want to go for a full neon bold eye,” Butler explains. “We went with a solution where the putty was only applied to the iris that was red.”
In Transforming Leto Morbius, Butler says he didn’t want to make it look cheesy. “He struggles to chain this into a demon, so there have been moments when he thrives and rests again in it,” Butler says.
With no visual evidence of hearing or what the sound would look like, it was director Daniel Espinosa who had the idea of having flutes of tissue in his ear. “We know bats use echolocation, so we said, ‘Let’s point out that there’s some pulse wave out. “So Butler and his team settled on the topic of wavelength properties to demonstrate hearing and sound.
Technologically speaking, Butler put tracking marks on Leto’s face. “It gave us the ability to track Jared’s head in 3D, but we didn’t set those markers to capture the actual facial performance.” Advances in machine learning algorithm technology mean that there is less need for excessive face restriction. He says, “We reserved the right to go and do a little bit at the end of filming for some specific behaviors as we really wanted to make sure we were picking up on some very nuances, especially when it comes to dialogue.”
Butler used a facial ADR in the post, a compilation of ADR dialogue, to capture those nuances “We’ve put together a list of all our main shows and dialogue shows, and we’ll be back with Matt Smith and Jared. He’ll have a helmet-mounted camera. We built an ADR session, we’ll have Turn on, there will be lights and sound. We already recorded the sound at the same time as well. And we let our manager guide Jared again.”