A Los Angeles man who would visit Aberdeen during the summers of his youth has a credited role in the blockbuster movie "The Avengers."
Andrew Cottingham, 26, wore a motion capture suit in parts of the movie. He works for a company called The Third Floor, which takes artists' storyboards and converts them into computer animation.
His parents, Denise Cottingham and Scott Cottingham, used to work at theaters and live in Aberdeen. Denise, whose maiden name is Schilling, grew up in Aberdeen, graduating from Central High School in 1981. Andrew's grandparents, Millie and Vernon Schilling, have lived in Aberdeen since 1964, Millie said.
While growing up in Illinois, Andrew came to Aberdeen many summers to visit his grandparents, Denise said.
The Third Floor did what's called previsualization or "pre-vising" for many of the battle scenes in "The Avengers," Andrew Cottingham said. The work involved somebody from The Third Floor wearing a motion capture suit.
The suit has sensors on every joint, and the sensors send wireless signals to a computer that captures the motion, he said. The movements of the person wearing the suit appear as a stick figure on the computer screen. Once motion capture scenes are shot, an animator will upload the footage to a scene. The motion capture data acts like a skeleton, and the animator drops a character over the top of it, he said.
Cottingham got in the motion capture suit the first time because a peer of his at The Third Floor who often does that work was bruised and sore after wearing it for consecutive days. Andrew acted out scenes involving the Black Widow character played by Scarlett Johansson.
"That day, we were shooting the scenes where Black Widow has to run from The Hulk after he's transformed on the Helicarrier (a flying aircraft carrier in the movie). I think my Black Widow running/sliding/diving worked well, but I could not do The Hulk. I didn't have the build or weight," Cottingham said.
Later, he hopped in the suit again and got to act out other Avenger characters, some aliens and some civilians, he said.
Doing the animation scenes isn't as easy as some folks might think and can be very time-consuming, he said.
"To make yourself look like a regular human (while wearing the suit), you have to broaden your shoulders and squat," Cottingham said. "There's actually a lot that goes into it for the movements to read correctly."
Cottingham went to Columbia College in Chicago. Before he started working for The Third Floor about 18 months ago, he was an audience coordinator for the Disney Kids show "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," Denise said.
"For the most part, I'm a vacuum filler" at The Third Floor, Cottingham said. "I have assigned duties that would be similar to a secretary (or) assistant, but I tend to just move around looking for places to help.
"I've done (motion capture) for other shows as well; however, they're all under wraps, and I'm unable to give you their titles," he said.
He also worked as an uncredited intern on the 2006 film "Flags of Our Fathers," starring Clint Eastwood.
Cottingham said he moved to Los Angeles in hopes of being a screenwriter. He still wants to do that, but writing in general has become more appealing, he said.
"I enjoy writing now because of the process, the way it grows and shrinks and changes and stays the same. It's become such a spiritual/therapeutic process for me that I haven't thought about it in terms of a career as much as just it's part of who I am," he said.
Denise said she remembers Andrew wanting to be involved in films and movies as far back as his early high school days. She said she's seen "The Avengers" three times.
"I was excited to see the movie, but I found that when the credits came up, I was even more excited just waiting to see his name," she said. "It was a thrill."
Andrew thought so, too.