Some of the coolest parts of The Amazing Spider-Man are the dizzying shots of Spidey rocketing through the air as he swings around the city. If those scenes seem a little more realistic than in previous movies about the web slinger, there’s a reason. Here, in a piece by originally published when the film opened in July, stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong explains how they reworked Spider-Man’s swing for the new film. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012: Behind the Scenes coverage.
Step 1: Back away from the computer. “The thing I’m most proud of is the fact that we, I think, have reinvented a real swing for Spider-Man, as opposed to a CG swing. Computer-generated images are a fabulous thing, but I think we went through a period where they’ve been overused. It’s nice that we were given a chance by Sony with this movie to try and do things for real again. Because there’s something beautiful about seeing something that really is real. Even if you’ve never done that activity, there’s something in the human eye and mind that can spot a real human doing something.”
Step 2: Go for the gold. “I brought in an Olympic-level gymnast, had him do stuff on a high bar — various big, dynamic swings — videoed it from every angle, and then analyzed that video. When you look at a real gymnast do a real swing on a giant bar, you realize that…when you see it as a computer-generated swing in he early Spider-Mans, he swings down at the same speed as he swings up. It’s all constant. When you see a powerful gymnast do it, his downward motion is actually a really violent motion. He’s accelerating until he reaches the bottom, then as he starts to come up, he’s decelerating until he gets to the top of his swing and he actually gets negative gravity, where he’ll go weightless for a second, and then the next swing starts, and it becomes another violent swing again. It sounds obvious now when you think about, but it was not obvious to everyone, because for years people haven’t done it.”
Step 3: Whip it good. “Once I realized that was the difference — the quantum variation in speed — that’s when we started to build machinery that would pull someone along with that sort of dynamic. So it would accelerate and accelerate and accelerate him and then stop him enough that he would pull massive Gs with the change of direction, and then accelerate him again to the next point and do the same again. We did that by pulling him along on a winch and stopping it, almost like cracking a whip. Imagine there’s a man on the end of a whip and you just sort of flick him out and stop him, and then flick him out and stop him. Then the athlete on the end of the line had to also synchronize his movements with the end of the whip crack. It was a combination of a lot of human skills and mechanical engineering.”