The "Spider-Man" franchise serves as a good barometer for assessing the recent VFX evolution of Sony Pictures Imageworks. In "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," though, it's about the power to energize Electro (Jamie Foxx), thanks to advancements in lighting (using the 3D application Katana) and rendering through ray-tracing along with a more efficient workflow that empowers the artists.
"It's more intimate in that it explores the relationship between Gwen [Emma Stone] and Peter [Andrew Garfield]," admits Jerome Chen, Sony's senior VFX supervisor. "It's a superhero that has to juggle his personal life with the weight of trying to be a hero. And he's also searching for some sort of meaning about why his parents abandoned him. Marc [Webb] says it's the classic hero's journey but he's trying to find his own identity in the process."
This identity crisis is at the core of director Webb's more personal vision for this Spidey reboot. "Realistically, anybody whose parents disappeared in a very urgent or chaotic manner when he was six or seven-years-old, that's going to have a huge emotional impact. And that moment is more definitive than even the spider bite. It defined the character and the movie in a very specific way for me.”"
In fact, Peter's orphan story was very Dickensian for him and he finds the whole notion of these kids having a generosity of spirit, yet also a distrust for the world around them, very provocative.
As far as VFX and 3-D, they weren't such a huge leap for Webb, who cut his teeth on music videos before jumping into "(500) Days of Summer" and "The Amazing "Spider-Man." "The action scenes just tend to be more physical obstacles, but not always. I worked several months on all that stuff with previs from Proof and that was really fun to do because of the exploration process and some of my friends of the last few years are previs artists and so I knew about that. The other thing is that Andy Armstrong, who is our stunt coordinator, put a real emphasis in the first part of the movie about doing the stunts practically, which usually makes the scope smaller but it enforces a certain physical dimension or physical language, which I thought was really helpful to inform the animation in the second-half of the movie."
And it's all about the climactic Times Square showdown in the second-half. Imageworks built a virtual Times Square as the battleground where Electro shows off his dazzling light show. "We created a storm of electricity within Electro's skin to visualize his rage," Chen explains. "To help integrate our CG characters into live-action, they take HDRI imagery and feed it into the Arnold renderer, which is the ray-tracing software."