Special effects pros have time to Iron out the details

The torments suffered by the likes of Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff in playing their signature roles have become Hollywood legend.

On “Iron Man 2,” visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs’ set out to make sure that Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Don Cheadle as War Machine didn’t make that kind of history.

“Gone are the days when you could put actors through hours and hours of grueling makeup and put them in a full prosthetic suit,” Sirrs says. “People don’t want to spend the time on set doing that. They’d rather do it in post.”

So Sirrs put them in performance-capture suits, adding pieces of practical armor when necessary. “Sometimes we’d need the helmet, like when it’s going to cast a shadow on someone’s face,” he says.

Born in the Midlands, in England, Sirrs’ first job in showbiz came in 1987 as a bicycle messenger for a London post house. They had a plan to do digital “ink & paint” for animation. He asked give it a try. He was new, but so was the company and the process.

“A lack of knowledge on both sides made it a perfect fit,” he jokes.

The gig launched him on a career path that has included vfx supervisor credits on “The Matrix,” “Batman Begins” and “I Am Legend.”

Another “Iron Man 2″ challenge: Two armored heroes. “There’s an underlying weight to the War Machine suit,” he says. “It’s like the difference between Mac and Windows. It’s a sort of retrofitted version of the Iron Man suit but done without the same elegance.”

But without the suffering.

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