Colossus proved to be a great foil for Ryan Reynolds’ snarky anti-hero in the smash hit "Deadpool," which required a complicated bit of animation by Digital Domain to pull off the 7-foot mutant giant. In fact, Colossus was Frankensteined together with the the help of voice actor Stefan Kapicic, motion capture performer Andrei Tricoteux for fighting, actor T.J. Storm for regular body motion, actor/stunt performer Glenn Ennis for initial facial shapes, and mocap supervisor Greg LaSalle for final facial performance.
First-time director Tim Miller (owner of Blur Studio, the VFX/animation/design studio, which also contributed to "Deadpool") envisioned a Colossus very different from the "X-Men" movies. As a nerd, he wanted a return to the comic book look: a bigger body builder type who’s Russian but totally photoreal.
"For body, we looked at Arnold Schwarzenegger during his body building days, but we wanted him to be much more athletic, so we also looked at football player builds: how long their muscles had to be in order for Colossus to realistically do the movements," explained DD’s VFX supervisor Alex Wang, who collaborated with production VFX supervisor Jonathan Rothbart.
"For the face, we looked at very chiseled and pronounced facial features. But more and more, Tim wanted his face to be based on somebody. But it was hard finding an actor that he liked and, at the very last minute, we found that he liked the stuntman on set, Glenn Ennis, for his facial features."
Miller was particularly keen on using the Mova facial capture system that DD first introduced in the Oscar-winning "Benjamin Button." Turns out that LaSalle, Mova Sci Tech Academy Award recipient, now works for DD, which acquired Mova. Miller turned to him to give the crucial face sync to audio after another actor fell through. LaSalle got to perform Colossus all alone with live-action plates as reference.
"Tim directed Greg and, using our direct drive system, we would then re-target the actor onto the Colossus," added Wang.
At the same time, DD pushed its muscle system to have greater control of the movement because muscle and skin sliding tends to be all over the place. "And so we needed to find a way of using our skin simulation to art direct where those lines go," explained animation director Jan Philip Cramer. "Obviously it’s metal and it can’t look like it’s stretching, but we had to find ways to compensate for natural skin slide that would look right."
For the metallic finish, DD used cold rolled steel as reference for the body and hot rolled steel for his hair. However, the ridges and lines proved troublesome, so DD tweaked Houdini software for placing them in targeted positions around his body (rendered procedurally in V-Ray).
Thus, Colossus not only had to look cool but perform like a super human Schwarzenegger.