So Long Spandex: Unravelling the CGI Modern Superhero Suit

Insidious? Artful? You decide!
Spider Man No Way Home Ending

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that takes a look at how (and why) animators use CGI to create superhero suits.

Maybe you’re a superhero fan happily deep in Marvel’s pocket. Maybe you’re a hardened cynic like The Last Duel director Ridley Scott — who is on record referring to superhero movies as “boring” and “wizard films.” Or maybe you’re the kind of person who lets silly culture wars waft right past you.

However the chips fall, there’s no denying that the way modern big-budget superhero films navigate special effects is fascinating. Particularly the ways in which modern CGI techniques emulate, or build-up, old special effects techniques.

Case and point: the digidouble, the practice of partially or fully recreating real human beings with CGI surrogates. Digidoubles are all over the place in superhero films, even in the most mundane of scenes, in part because costume elements like masks and costumes are easy to emulate digitally. Using digidoubles also allows studios to have more control after principal photography has wrapped.

It’s fascinating to think about how much digidoubles have in common with rotoscoping, an animation technique that allowed artists to use live-action film as a traceable reference to create more natural-looking animated motion. The line between live-action and animation is fuzzy in modern, big-budget superhero films. And however you feel about the genre, it’s absolutely delightful that there’s a directed genetic link between something like Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and the latest Spider-Man outing.

For more on how and why digidoubles have become so prevalent in superhero fare, check out the video essay below. (And maybe check to make sure that you aren’t actually a CGI double of yourself).

Watch “Why there’s no one inside this Spider-Man suit”:

Who made this?

This video about how modern superhero movies use CGI to animate suits is by Vox, an American news website owned by Vox Media, founded in 2014. Vox produces videos on news, culture, and everything in between. This video was produced and animated by Edward Vega with art direction by Estelle Caswell and story editing by Bridgett Henwood. You can subscribe to Vox on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

More videos like this

    Meg Shields: Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.