How Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’s Technical Wizardy Brought Comic Books To Life

How Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’s Technical Wizardy Brought Comic Books To Life
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Gizmodo Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse looks like a goddamn living comic book. It’s vibrant and bold, and jam packed with cutting-edge animation technology that helped pioneer its inventive aesthetic. We’ve got an exclusive look at Titan’s upcoming guide to the film that dives into just how the animation team accomplished it all.

Releasing this week, Titan’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—The Official Movie Special is a collector’s guide looking behind-the-scenes at how one of best superhero films around came together. Packed with never before seen artwork from the film’s animation team, as well as exclusive interviews with the cast and crew of the movie, the guide is well, your guide into the Spider-Verse itself!

The official cover for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—The Official Movie Special. (Image: Titan)

io9 is delighted to share an exclusive spread from the special, featuring concept art of Miles hanging around as the Ultimate Spider-Man—and an interview with Josh Beveridge, an animation supervisor on the film, as he discusses the techniques and tech behind making Into the Spider-Verse pop as brightly and as loudly as it does.

Image: Titan Comics

If you don’t want to embiggen and read Beveridge’s insight that way, an extract of the interview in the book can be found below.

Can you tell us about your responsibilities as animation supervisor on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?

Josh Beveridge: The responsibilities shift depending on where we are at in production, but the overriding aim of my job is to push the character animation to be the best it can be. My day-to-day challenges include making sure the characters are consistent and helping to ensure the performances match the director’s vision. I’m basically a cheerleader for animation.

I’ve been working on the film since 2016 helping to interpret the designs and paintings into animation. We have a bold, different visual style to this movie. It took over a year for us to develop that technology. We wanted to try something fresh. This has been a tough project, but we’re hoping it will be a new frontier.

How big was this project for you?

This has been a pretty all-consuming job for the last two years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a dream job – the ten year old me is out of his mind with excitement right now.

How do you coordinate a team of that size?

We have an amazing team. They all care and they’re all hard-working. A lot of these folks relocated to be a part of this project. When folks are inspired it makes hard work easier.

What are your favourite elements of animation that have been developed for this movie?

One of the things I really love is that we’re animating on twos [Editor’s note: Ones, twos, and threes refer to how long a single image holds on camera for in relationship to frames per second. Ones mean every single frame is different, so at 24 frames per second you’ll have 24 individual and unique drawings with that second. Twos means that something holds for two frames, rather than one].

There’s something pretty great about being on twos – it’s crisper, it’s pop art and every decision made on this project is based on the look of the comic books. Pop art graphic clarity is one of those things that we felt was critical. Getting two to work for more complicated things like hair or cloth simulations as well as camera operation was quite a collaborative feat.

Once we got to a process where twos could be a thing we could modulate within a shot it became strictly a creative call for how and when to do it. Every single department in this movie rolled up their sleeves and just took it apart to figure out how to make it all work.

Is there anything new that you get to do with the characters that you wouldn’t have been able to without the new animation technology?

Our new “Inkline” tools would be a huge one. To make things feel even more like a comic book we knew we wanted inklines. We built several different ways to make a drawn line exist in 3D space with and around our characters and pandoras box has really opened up to all kinds of expressive possibilities we never had before.

The power of the drawn line in incredible. A simple line can exaggerate an emotion, clarify an action, or describe a form. Having this tool in the hands of each animator has proven to be incredibly powerful.

Do you ever piece roughs together with storyboards or even clips from other animated films or shows to give the directors a general idea of what it will look like? 

Absolutely. I do not waste time, so we use any technique we can to get ideas out there, to throw those ideas out. We have some people who sketch out ideas and take photos with their phones and submit those so we can look at them in the context of the shots. Other people talk through what they are designing.

And some people take primitive balls or blocks and animate those just to give us a sense of how energy passes through the scenes, and what kind of movement we will be doing.

Some of the animators even film themselves acting out scenes as a reference. 

There’s some really good ones that I want to put into a second version of the film that is just made up of those! I look at influences from all over the place. It also helps rule out ideas, which is just as helpful as finding the answers.

Are there times when the voice-acting changes and shifts direction for your team?

A lot of performances are workshopped and they improve as we go, but ideally when animation starts it’s with a final version of the reads. That is the most straight-forward way to do it. Most of the time that is the case, but sometimes because of schedule constraints we start animation to a temp track and potentially adjust one way or another afterwards. These things get built up as we go along.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Official Movie Special is on shelves now.