Avengers Endgame brought the Infinity saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close and while it was hard to bid adieu to some of our favourite characters, it was a visual marvel. In a new video by Wired, the Visual Effects Producer of the film Jen Underdahl explains how they achieved the visual effects that are hard to distinguish from practical effects. Here’s everything we learnt from her revelations:
Jen explains that even before they started shooting for Avengers Infinity War, they had to do a mock shoot with Josh Brolin in 2016 as he had to carry two-thirds of the movie on his own. After they started doing some tests, she says, “Not only was it a technical discovery for us, it was a character discovery for Josh (Brolin), Joe and Anthony (Russo).”
After a long run of testing, they found the ideal way to present Thanos as they had to strike the perfect balance between creating a 15-foot giant but also retains Josh’s performance. To shoot Josh with other characters, they always had to maintain the sanctity of the performance so they had to create room where actors could act alongside each other instead of interacting with digital replacements. “Ideally in any situation when you have a digital character, you want to have two actors acting to one another, that’s where the magic happens. We can replace it digitally but we certainly can’t manufacture that performance,” Jen explains.
“The goal of Smart Hulk was to bring old Hulk with Dr Banner,” Jen Underdahl explains. Smart Hulk had to be in the same space as Natasha or Tony or any of the other characters so he shot for his part completely in a mo-cap suit but retaining his expressions was key here.
Steve’s old age
To shoot for the scene where Steve appears as an old man, they had to cast a skin double. Chris Evans shot the scene and then they recorded the scene with an old man. Here, their take-off point was, “What would a super soldier look like if he had aged 106 years?”
Rocket’s interaction with surroundings
Unlike other characters, Rocket is not created via a motion-capture suit. In fact, he is played by Sean Gunn on the set of the film but voiced by Bradley Cooper. Jen Underdahl tells, “There’s no real reason to put dots on Bradley Cooper’s face. The difference between a raccoon and a human face is, they are pretty far off.” But while Cooper does his voice acting, he is filmed so the visual effects team can carry his expressions and use them for Rocket.
Jen explains that in Thor’s case, they put on prosthetics on Chris Hemsworth as they helped with his performance. The use of visual effects was quite minimal here as they only had to use technology to hide the seams on his suit.
The time suits that the Avengers wear to time travel were all created digitally. Jen Underdahl explains that they had to include technology from the Guardian universe as well as Tony’s world. The actors shot for their scenes in a different costume and they were replaced digitally.
Even Captain Marvel’s suit in the film was put on digitally.
Captain America vs Captain America
The iconic fight scene was a challenge. “To shoot it, we had Chris Evans act both parts. The moments they interacting, we had a body double,” Jen Underdahl shares. The entire building of glass and all the elements we see in it were created digitally, right from the skyline to the chair that we see in the background was all created via visual effects. “Our building these sets into full CG really allows our filmmakers lot of flexibility not only with our live-action elements but with the digital replacements when you have a beat that doesn’t cut together as smoothly as you like,” Jen explains.
A unique trivia that Jen shares in the video is that the rat in the Scott Lang scene was, in fact, not digital. Scott Lang lands back in present time after a rat hits a few buttons in the van, Jen shares that this was a live rat and for all the things they create digitally, they were quite surprised that they did not have to recreate that.