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Getting the workout for an M&F cover guy is usually pretty simple: talk to the guy or talk to his trainer. Putting a CGI character on our cover, however, required a different approach, so we provided you with a cover story on how bodybuilder Ben Pakulski built himself up to modern-day Hulking proportions, as well as the training template that Lou Ferrigno used while filming the original Hulk TV series. But it still begs the question: How did the actual cover guy get to look the way he did? We recently chatted with Jeff White, who served as the Avengers’ Visual Effects Supervisor, and Ryan Meinerding and Charlie Wen, both Visual Development Supervisors, to see how they built the latest and greatest incarnation of the Hulk.
M&F: What was your inspiration for the way the Hulk should look? Did you draw from bodybuilder’s physiques or were you looking at other athletes or models?
Jeff White: It was a pretty lengthy process in terms of building the Hulk. We started with a really great design from the art department at Marvel. Since we had attempted this before, we had a lot of good people around here to talk to for some of the pitfalls in terms of creating this character. We really tried to start from lots and lots of references. We brought in a couple of different guys. We had a bodybuilder, we had a guy that used to work for Cirque De Soleil, so he was a lot leaner where we could see some of the forms and the muscles better and we just set up cameras all around them and had them move through lots of poses. But on top of live reference, we had a ton of photo and video, too — medical journals, photos of bodybuilders and strongmen, a lot of stuff like that.
Charlie Wen: I had a few Arnold Schwarzenegger images up while I was working — from that era before bodybuilders got extremely huge everywhere. I was trying to keep it as naturalistic as possible because on the previous Hulk movie, The Incredible Hulk, there was this emphasis on just being super ripped all the time. You could see all the striations in the muscles. We really wanted to get back to a Hulk where you can actually feel his muscles relax and flex and just really believe the movement of the muscles.
Ryan Meinerding: We generally got our direction from Joss [Whedon]. He didn’t want him to be super ripped and he talked about turn of the century strongmen as a starting point, guys that have a little bit more natural amount of body fat.
M&F: What did you take from Arnold specifically?
CW: We actually looked at him when he wasn’t in competition form, where we couldn’t see every striation and all the separation between the muscles. Sometimes it felt like there was a smoother transition between — let’s say the delts into the triceps or into the biceps. We just really tried to get smoother transitions in between muscles. I felt that was a big part of this, the transitions between the muscles and not just the muscles themselves.
M&F: In terms of scale, how big is this Hulk and does he get bigger and bigger as he gets angrier, like in Ang Lee’s Hulk?
CW: No. He pretty much stays the one size. He’s 8’ 6” and he stays at that size. So actually, in comparison to the other two Hulks, the Ang Lee Hulk and the last one, this one is probably just a little bit smaller. Ang Lee’s Hulk gets to about 13’ or14’. He gets really, really tall.
M&F: How much does he weigh at 8’ 6” feet?
JW: About 1,500 pounds.
M&F: In terms of his movements, what did you use for reference?
JW: When big heavy guys are running around, you have this jiggle and then you have the muscles flex, and then that jiggle again before it tightens up. We were watching guys weight lifting. Nothing moves in a straight line at all. It all kind of goes one direction then it zigs in another direction and then there’s a ripple of muscles under the skin. For us, we really wanted to capture all of that in this Hulk. What was great about the design, he’s very big, he’s very beefy, but he’s not hardened, 100% cut with no body fat. When his muscles are at rest, he’s actually got some softer areas in his skin, and that gives us a lot to play around with in terms of getting the physics right.
M&F: What were some of the challenges unique to this movie?
CW: Because The Hulk is part of a team, I think that’s probably one of the reasons why he was scaled down a little bit, because you actually have to get him in shots with other characters. You try and scale him in such a way you could believe him as being on a team and fit in the same world as the rest.
M&F: His jumping ability in the Ang Lee film was wild. He was basically flying. Does he do anything like that here?
RM: He can still jump really high. Let’s just put it that way. It’s only evident once you see the film, but he’s not bouncing around everywhere.
M&F: If you got him on a flat bench, how do you think he could throw up?
RM: That’s a hard question, and one we probably can’t answer. The Marvel Universe has laws. Just as many bodybuilding fans out there would know if we misspoke about Arnold Schwarzenegger, there are Marvel fans who would know if we said something inaccurate.
CW: There are specific numbers depending on which Hulk you’re talking about and how much he can lift. It has been addressed before. What the actual numbers would be, I can’t say. But it is some ridiculous, ridiculous amount.
M&F: Overall, then, I take it you feel this is the best Hulk yet on film.
CW: I think we’re all pretty proud of how he turned out. Josh came up with something that looks and feels like the Hulk and Mark Ruffalo. It really boils down to performance, and that came from Mark. When it’s all said and done, it’s as realistic as it can possibly be.