Cinesite Revisits Marvel Classics to Deliver ‘Avengers: Endgame’ VFX
Picking up where Infinity War left off, Disney and Marvel’s record-breaking box office juggernaut, Avengers: Endgame, is the culmination of 10 years and 22 films in the MCU. It is the sixth Marvel Studios film Cinesite has worked on, having previously completed 215 shots for Avengers: Infinity War. Both films were directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with visual effects supervised by Dan DeLeeuw and produced by Jen Underdahl. Cinesite also worked closely with associate visual effects supervisor Mårten Larsson.
Endgame begins by exploring the emotional impact of the devastating events of Infinity War, where half of life in the universe was destroyed with a single snap of Thanos’ fingers. Five years later, the remaining Avengers assemble once more to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.
A large portion of Cinesite’s work was based around the Avengers revisiting scenes from previous films as they attempt to retrieve the infinity stones. Cinesite VFX supervisor Simon Stanley-Clamp explains, “Our work referenced three previous Marvel films; Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), so the aesthetics were an important challenge. We had to match the look and tone of the originals faithfully.”
Cinesite recreated an important sequence from the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy, set on Morag. The initial shots, where the Guardians’ M-Ship escape pod lands on the planet surface, were entirely CG, matching shots from the original film. As Nebula and Rhodey watch Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) singing and dancing, the green screen set piece was extended 100% by adding columns, dripping water and foliage to the environment. The planet surface is remote and barren yet beautiful, with ruined architectural features seen against a low sunset. The final shot required extensive input from FX, lighting, animation, texturing and compositing.
Cinesite’s most challenging sequence is set in a battle towards the climax of the film. Following the destruction of the Avengers’ base, Hawkeye is pursued by Outriders in underground tunnels as he searches for the Gauntlet in the rubble. The terrifying creatures, first seen in the epic battles of Black Panther, move in multiple ways: running, climbing, crawling and leaping. Adding to the animation challenge, they do so on eight limbs.
Choreography of the Outriders was key to making the exciting chase sequence work. Although Hawkeye is always one step ahead, the Outriders move at a blistering speed. To make the pace and positioning believable, the creatures zigzag through the tunnels, drifting up the walls almost like skateboarders in their haste to get past each other and move forward in the limited space.
Cinesite’s team also created the iconic sequence where Tony Stark is lost in space with Nebula: from exterior shots showing the isolation of the ship to blackening Nebula’s eyes, recreating her robotic arm and the exterior space environments with a gaseous nebula visible from the cockpit.
In total, Cinesite’s team numbered around 160, including support, and work took eight months to complete. Cinesite partner company TRIXTER recently completed work for Marvel Studios on Captain Marvel; the film has grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide, making it the first female-led superhero film to pass the billion-dollar mark.
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