We chat to Captain America: Civil War Visual Effects Supervisor Dan DeLeeuw! talks to Dan DeLeeuw, 20+ year effects industry veteran and Visual Effects Supervisor on Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War”.

How many VFX shots are in Captain America: Civil War?

Approximately 2800.

A lot of the characters are VFX based or at least have a lot of VFX elements. How do you decide what’s going to be VFX versus live action?

A lot of it has to do with the hero’s powers. It’s the style of filmmaking the Russo Brothers bring – they want to shoot as practically as possible, which you definitely saw in Captain America: Winter Soldier. But when we got to Civil War it’s just the nature of some of the characters like Iron Man and Giant-Man [the overgrown Ant-Man] that we had to use CG for it.

What constitutes a good VFX shot?

Something that really moves the story forward. It’s very impactful. If you look at Civil War, it’s one of those things when you hear the audience react to the imagery from a story standpoint. That’s probably the best feeling in the world. So when you look at something like Giant-Man [the overgrown Ant-Man] coming out of nowhere and everyone reacting and clapping and being excited, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Then, even in the final battle with Tony, Bucky and Cap fighting – even when the first trailer came out – people were just viscerally upset with the guys fighting each other. That was a pretty great shot, too.

What was the hardest VFX sequence in the movie?

It would be the splash panel [airport fight], just because of the scope of it. We spent so much time on it, getting it as good we could all the way from pre-production. That’s one of the first sequences we started working on, and was actually the last sequence we finished before the film came out.

What do Marvel movies do differently from any other projects you’ve worked on?

At Marvel – the same thing is true of the Russo Brothers – it’s all about the story and all about making a great movie. We’re given a lot of creative freedom to dream up impossible scenes. Marvel allows you to dream up a fight at an airport with 12 of your favorite superheroes and come up with every cool idea you can possibly imagine.

What’s a good career path to take to make it in VFX?

Depends what you want to do. When I first started it was a business for more of the generalist, where you did a lot of different disciplines, but now I think you want to focus on what you love, so if you’ve got a talent for animation, definitely focus on that. There’s a lot of great animation schools you can go to and learn how to animate on the computer. If you’re more of a technical person you can get into effects animation and then if you’re more of a artist or visual painter or you’re into lighting scenes you can get into those areas.

What do you wish the industry at large knew about working with visual effects that it doesn’t seem to appreciate?

I think we’re at a point where there’s a lot of things that visual effects can do, but there’s still a lot of things shooting practically can achieve that are better. There are some things with special effects and stunts that – given the right amount of time and the right people – I think we should still just shoot practically.

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