In The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers, the Hulk is an obvious CGI character.

However, I am unclear as to how much of him is actual CGI vs motion capture or if his face is a real person's face or another part of the wonders of CGI, etc?

How much of the Hulk can be attributed to a real entity and how much is pure CGI?

  • I worked with the guy who was one of the animators at ILM for the Hulk film. He's pure CGI and a lot of it is key framed.
    – Reactgular
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 14:58
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    @mathewFoscarini If you have any insight to this process that you'd like to share (or can share for that matter) would you please add it as an answer? :)
    – Tablemaker
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 15:14

2 Answers 2


Computer artists start by developing a hand drawing of a character, and places like ILM will sometimes create small clay figures as references.

These are then passed to the modeling artists who convert the concept into a digital character with high level of detail. This is often done with special digital clay sculpting software.

Here are some examples I found;

enter image description here

The face can be done digitally as well, and made to be very realistic.

enter image description here

Those images were taken from artists on the Pixologic community forum at http://www.zbrushcentral.com/forum.php

After digital sculpting is complete, the model is passed to Technical Directors who apply bones/muscles and controls. Also layers of visual effects can be added (smoke, fire, sparks, glowing things). This process is actually very complex and time consuming.

At this point the character has become what is called a "digital asset". It can move through the production pipeline to different departments. It might go back for more sculpting, go to the rendering departing for lighting, go to texture artists for painting, etc.. etc..

The animators will bring the character to life by key framing the motion. They work on shots and sequences assigned to them by a producer. They can acquire data from another department in the form of data files captured during motion capture sessions with an actor. While an actor might have performed motion capture sessions, an animator is still required to clean and apply the sequence to the character. A lot of people think motion capture makes things easier, but it doesn't. It's a challenge to work with.

You can read more about VFX processes at CGSociety. The Wrath of The Titans is a recent example.


This question actually dates back to some of the debates in animation. How much of a character is the director, writers, and artists and how much is a part of the voice artists providing the character.

This debate is what has often fueled the salary battles of actors from "The Simpsons" as well as an endless history of industry strikes.

"The Avengers" opted to use motion capture on Mark Ruffalo so that the Hulk would actually resemble Banner not merely in features but in expression. So as the effects and CGI improve, there seems to still be a desire to have a human being actually perform (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, etc) Back on the topic of voice, Lou Ferrigno returned as the voice.

So the question of "Real Entity" vs. "Pure CGI" is left as a constant debate in the industry. even fully CG characters such as "Otto" the auto-pilot in "WALL-E" still have their grounding in an artist and director. Though, I believe this may be the closest to date as a Pure-CG character since the voice was fully CG Generated as well.

  • 1
    Ah, I had never considered the voice, I guess because the Hulk doesn't have much * discernible* dialogue :)
    – Tablemaker
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 12:59
  • I do wish I'd found a link concerning the Salary battles of Voice artists. If I dig one up I'll edit it into the response. Commented May 4, 2012 at 14:03
  • On The Incredible Hulk, they did facial motion capture on Edward Norton, but the body motion capture was someone else.
    – user209
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 14:11
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    – Reactgular
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 15:00
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    It should be noted that, in the case of Wall-e, both Wall-e and EVE used (post-processed) phlanged voices from real people. Otto (the auto-pilot), however, was 'voiced' by the standard Mac text-to-speech synthesizer. All Pixar animation has been done by hand, meaning no motion capture. Commented May 4, 2012 at 20:13

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