In 2021, Disney kicked off the monumental Phase Four of its Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Phase Four promises a saga of content promising new stories for Doctor Strange, Thor, and Ant-Man, and a whole new cast of characters in Eternals, Blade, and Fantastic Four. Unlike previous Phases, however, Phase Four promises fan favourite characters beyond the silver screen, having made its grand entrance with Disney+ series WandaVision and its follow-up The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Like Wandavision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier follows the events of Avengers: Endgame. Here, Cap’s closest friends Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) must reluctantly team up against a powerful rebel group while coming to terms with a world sans Steve Rogers.

Johanna Lange

VFX Producer

Anita Grau

VFX Coordinator

Company Trixter
Website trixter.de
Location Germany

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s visual effects are hugely impressive from episode one. Whether that’s Falcon taking on helicopters over a sprawling desert canyon or the multitude of invisible visual effects serving to create a consistent and believable world, the visuals are as breathtaking as any of the MCU’s big-screen counterparts.

Twelve visual effects vendors delivered sequences across the six-part show, including Germany’s TRIXTER—a studio that’s now contributed to 17 Marvel projects since the team first created Stark tech for Iron Man 2 in 2010. TRIXTER is well-versed in creating MCU-level visual effects, from crashing alien ships in Spider-Man to creepy death god crypts in Thor: Ragnarok. As such, the challenge on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier wasn’t creating effects; it was the television timeline. TRIXTER needed to produce 56 feature film-quality shots in just nine weeks.

Giving a hand

Considering the workload, staying in close communication was essential—particularly so as everyone at TRIXTER was working remotely throughout production. Media review played a big part in keeping everyone in sync: TRIXTER used cineSync for all client-side communication and ftrack Studio for internal reviews and production tracking.

TRIXTER’s primary sequence involved a nightmare sequence, in which Bucky remembers a mission carried out in a luxury Budapest hotel during his time as the Winter Soldier assassin. In the scene, Bucky dispatches a squad of enemies using his super-strong, high-tech prosthetic arm as he battles toward his target.

“The scene posed a very challenging, specific task and extensive rotomation work,” explains VFX Producer Johanna Lange. “We had to match the on-set rubber prop arm frame-by-frame, so we could extend it and have it look like metal; something especially tricky during an action sequence where physics don’t always consistently apply! In addition, we worked on several other prosthetic arm replacement shots throughout the show—many were easier than the Bucky nightmare sequence because the rotomation involved fewer close-ups, shorter shots, and a more static camera.”

ftrack Studio was immensely helpful, both for review sessions and tracking our work on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Anita GrauVFX Coordinator

Despite these challenges, the final nightmare scene results were extraordinarily effective. “We loved the Bucky nightmare sequence because it was mystical and dark; it wasn’t a typical fight scene,” continues Lange. “The finished look was great. We were particularly proud given we were the sole vendor on the scene—we managed high-quality work on a tricky sequence and all within a short timeline.”

Other key shots included 2 face replacements: Firstly during the fight outside the Super Soldier lab in Madripoor. “There’s a big fight between shipping containers in a dock—we superimposed the face of an actress onto a stunt double so the shot ran more smoothly,” explains Anita Grau, VFX Coordinator on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

“The 2nd, more challenging face replacement shot involved reconstructing character Sharon Carter’s face in 3D for a scene in which she is wearing a complex disguise facilitated by a highly technical veil,” continues Grau. “The real test here was bringing together numerous visual effects elements across all departments to replace her face under the mask.”

ftrack and cineSync assemble

Discussion of visual effects with the Marvel team took place via cineSync. TRIXTER would jump into cineSync sessions with clients in different time zones and discuss iterations and feedback on shots. Internal review sessions, meanwhile, were completed within ftrack Studio.

“ftrack Studio was immensely helpful in many ways, both for review sessions and tracking our work on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier overall,” says Grau. “When working on shots, ftrack Studio was our central database. Artists used the ftrack Studio platform every day to see the status of tasks, update notes, and publish new versions for review.”

Adding notes to versions proved especially useful in the era of lockdown. Grau continues, “Using the notes functionality, artists could share updates and ideas with the whole studio via ftrack. As we were all working from home and couldn’t communicate as easily as we would in-studio, the notes in ftrack went a long way to supporting more organic discussions. The coordinators and artists relied heavily on notes to keep interdepartmental communication flowing.”

ftrack Studio’s time tracking functionality also proved valuable, especially when a freelancer or new team member would join the show. “We could see where time was spent and make decisions about optimizing resources within the 10-week timeframe,” says Grau. “Time tracking was a great help in that regard.”

Just the start

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is an epic tale of morality, honour, and legacy. But even these six extraordinary episodes—stunning as they are in scope and visual fidelity for a television series—are but a small part of Phase Four’s large, sprawling, insanely ambitious plan. The Loki Disney+ series already features work from TRIXTER, and there’s so much more to come.

“We love working on the MCU and delivering visuals for projects like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki,” says Lange. “We can’t wait to see what’s next, and we’ll certainly be taking cineSync and ftrack Studio along for the ride.”

Learn more about TRIXTER’s work on the TRIXTER website, and watch The Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney+.

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