Skip to Content
Humans and technology

How “Avengers: Infinity War” took CGI characters to the next level

Special-effects firm Digital Domain used detailed scans to allow actor Josh Brolin to drive the character Thanos’s facial expressions in Marvel’s latest blockbuster.

The news: Instead of projecting the character’s computer-generated image onto the actor after the performance was complete (as has been done in many previous movies), the filmmakers had Brolin become one on set. “On his first day on set he was able to see how his performance would transfer onto the character,” Digital Domain’s head of digital humans, Darren Hendler, told MIT Technology Review. “He didn’t have to wait months or years to see how it would convert onto the live screen.”

How it was done: Before filming began, the firm took precise measurements of how Brolin’s face moves, all the way down to tracking his pores and the way his skin slides over his musculature. Thanos’s face and anatomical structure were then constructed on the basis of Brolin’s, allowing him to more accurately drive the character’s motions.

What’s next? Handler says they haven’t gone so far as taking MRIs or x-rays of actors yet, but given how far they are going right now, the key word there is “yet.”

Deep Dive

Humans and technology

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

The 1,000 Chinese SpaceX engineers who never existed

LinkedIn users are being scammed of millions of dollars by fake connections posing as graduates of prestigious universities and employees at top tech companies.

Social media is polluting society. Moderation alone won’t fix the problem

Companies already have the systems in place that are needed to evaluate their deeper impacts on the social fabric.

The fight for “Instagram face”

Meta banned filters that “encourage plastic surgery,” but a massive demand for beauty augmentation on social media is complicating matters.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.