Incredible Hulk: Creating the New Hulk

The process of creating the new Hulk logically began with the green guy himself. The filmmakers went through hundreds of iterations and countless sketches to get the final design for the Hulk perfect. The preproduction process was endless, admits producer Avi Arad. We had files upon files upon files. Everyone has an image of The Hulk in their minds, but we needed to move forward and make it this Incredible Hulk.

Something Uberhuman

Director Leterrier knew what he expected of the final design for his protagonist. I wanted something berhuman, he states. I wanted to feel texture, skin, veins. It was really important for me to hone in on a great looking Hulk. He adds that the team wasnt interested in doing simply a bulked up Edward. We wanted to do something different, where Hulk has this iconic shape, he says.

900 Visual Effects Shots

To accomplish this task, among many others, Leterrier and the producers would turn to visual effects supervisor Kurt Williams, veteran of such Marvel blockbusters as “Fantastic Four” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Williams, a fan of The Hulk since his brother introduced him to the comic as a boy, partnered with the Oscar-winning visual effects house Rhythm & Hues for the action-adventure. His team would ultimately be responsible for seamlessly blending more than 900 visual effects shots450 of which are full key CG character shotsinto the film.

For the behind-the-scenes crew, it was just as important to protect the legacy of the Hulk as it was to update his look with the tools at the VFX teams disposal. To achieve the first objective, Williams and company returned to the launching pad: the comic books. From a conceptual perspective, Williams says, it made sense to go back to the source materialthe classic Hulk origin and all the things people love about the character, all the things that make the Hulk, well, rhe Hulk. We found artwork that fit into the way that we saw himwith longer hair and the classic Hulk sculptural positions he struck in those comic books. We started with that as a basis and worked outward.
Then we began to translate it to the real world, which is always a challenge with comics.

Williams knew that achieving the exact blend for a creature he believed was more linebacker than bodybuilder, who could be powerful, scary and, simultaneously, empathetic, was a monstrous task. The Hulk fans have huge expectations, and allowing todays savvy audiences to connect with any CG character requires enormous effort on
the part of a films visual effects team.

As the VFX supervisor explains, successfully translating our hero from the development stages to the movie screen is predicated on our ability to find emotional characteristics in that creature. He reflects: As humans, we spend so much time scanning peoples faces. And the difference between being able to read a computergenerated character and a real human is a very narrow margin. But we naturally have the instinct to tell when something isnt right. We can tell when muscles arent firing correctly in the face, or when the eyes arent moving properly; we constantly scan other human faces to read emotion.

Rage and Displeasure

When they began the animation process, they knew the Hulk not only had to convey his feelings of rage and displeasure, but do so opposite a very real cast of actors. The visual effects team devised a tool set to create audience empathy for the Hulk; this allowed for the character to have a number of corporeal affectations, giving the audience visual cues to interpret what they think the Hulk is thinking and how he is feeling.

Williams provides: In the tool set, we have physical attributes like a muscle structure
and vascular structure that can grow or deflate in volume. To show that hes active or angry, for example, we can add or take a bit of saturation out of his colorthings that allow us to create something humans can relate to.

Everybody can relate to the fact that if youre embarrassed, you become flushed in the face. Its little details like those that we needed to put into this Hulk.

Fortuitous, as Stan Lee had come to a similar conclusion more than 45 years ago. Offers Lee: My first impulse was to make him gray, because as far as I knew, there were no Super Heroes or villains running around with gray skin. When the first issue came out, the printer had trouble with the gray color. So I talked to the technical people and they said, Well, most of the other colors are easier to do; you wont have to worry. I had to pick out another color, and I realized nobody had a green hero I knew of. And I said, Okay, lets make him green. It was as casual as that.

Finally, size would be addressed by the designers and animators. Offers Williams: One of the big challenges on the movie was deciding the scale of the characters. Our challenge was to create a consistent size for The Hulk throughout the movie. We didnt want him to grow. We didnt want him to ebb or flow. We wanted him to be one size the whole time, so we picked 9, because it would still allow him to relate to human beings and not be so big that he would be almost alien or unbelievable. It allows you to believe hes really there, but you still have the ability for him to believably pick up a car and throw it and show other great feats of strength like slamming the ground and creating a giant chasm in the street.