Avengers: Endgame has had nothing short of a magical effect on audiences. One meme posted to Reddit showing just how much the visual effects team contributed to the magic. Thor is the only character on-screen surrounded by a sea of green motion capture cloth. Then the bottom image has him calling down his lightning in the ruins near the Avengers compound. The attention to detail was pretty amazing during the film, and it takes untold work to really bring battles of this scale to audiences. Thor himself was brought to life by a small army, as was Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and Thanos during the climax. But the question hangs in the air, how do they make all of this happen?
Going into the longest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might want to bring some backup. So, the filmmakers assembled the team from Weta Digital visual effects to craft this spectacle. Matt Aitken is the supervisor for their effects team, and he talked to Comicbook.com earlier this year about the task at hand during that final battle.
“Yeah, it had to be quite contained in a way,” Aitken began. “The idea is that this battle is taking place in the bombed-out ruins of the Avengers compound on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York, and so, it couldn't be vast because why would Thanos use his spaceship to destroy unpopulated countryside? … The key to that was just staging the action within this environment because there's a kind of thread running through the whole battle which is our heroes collaborating and teaming up to get the gauntlet with the stones across the crater, through a bombed-out battlefield, across to the other side to where the van with the quantum tunnel is sitting, so they can get the stones back.”
He continued, “Because they would have got there within about the first five minutes of the fight because the crater is quite small, we had to kind of artfully restage action pieces so that they're covering some ground. Then we back everything up to the other side of the crater and then they cover some more ground and then we back everything up again so they're kind of going over the same piece of crater over and over again, but hopefully, people aren't noticing that. We like moving the dressing around and changing the perspective, so it may be that the crater ultimately feels bigger than it is. But we're helping with that by dressing and drifting smoke elements and atmospheric haze and all these things can help make the crater feel bigger than it actually is, so I think it's not something that people have found off-putting or jarring.”
“And as you said, that actors were filmed on a set,” He continued. “Often what we do is we wrote a scope, we isolate the actors from that set because it needs to look different or maybe the set dressings that they filmed with isn't appropriate for the particular sequence that we're doing, or just because we want to be able to light the environment so that it feels like it's outside and not on a stage. We're replacing a lot of that on-set environment with a hero, CG version, so it's not just the background and the mid-ground that's CG in a lot of these shots, it's the foreground as well.”