Avengers: Endgame featured a bevy of CGI moments and action sequences, which is a relatively common practice for such films, but it also featured CGI in some surprising ways. For those who like peeks behind the scenes of Marvel movies, you likely know that some of the costumes in the films are also mostly computer generated, especially for characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man. ComicBook.com's Adam Barnhardt had the chance to speak with Visual Effects Supervisor Russell Earl and Modeling Supervisor Bruce Holcomb of Industrial Light and Magic, and it turns out all of the Avengers Quantum suits were also computer generated in the final film.
Each one also receives an Ant-Man and Wasp-like helmet, and we asked the duo why an all-CGI approach was taken rather than a practical suit. It seems the most likely culprit is timing.
"I don't fully know the decision behind it," Earl said. "I do know that what ends up happening is the suits evolve and change. In this case, I don't think the design of the suit was fully there when they started shooting the scene and I think they were shooting multiple scenes at multiple locations. I read some articles about people saying that the suits are digital. We do it all the time and we don't necessarily call it out. Where you know, Cap's body will be CG, or Black Panther's body 99 percent of the time is all CG, Spidey, when Tom's just there wearing the suit, that's almost always CG. So I think the decision came once the suits had to grow go on and off. So you can either choose to have two suits that they would get in and out of. I think it just came down to wanting to have the flexibility to get the design just right and at the time of shooting wasn't quite there."
"I'm speculating on it," Earl added. "I don't really know the full story behind it, but it's something that I think all of the effects houses have gotten so good at is just doing digital costumes that the studio can rely more on it and not necessarily have to make those decisions up front. It just allows a little bit more flexibility and knowing that you're going to have to build the suit anyway because it has the sort of nanotech growing out of the time watches that and that's the thing. If you know you're going to have to build the suit anyway to get the transitions, then you know you're going to have to have a photo-real suit in which case that then also lends itself to, oh well if we're going to have it then we can put it in these other shots. Then sometimes a lot of the costumes are built. Ant-Man's obviously a suit that's built but we've done that in all CG, or like I said, Cap, I think all of them at one point or the other have gone all CG."
The Ant-Man helmet was also preferred due to how quickly it can be activated and deactivated, which helps get the actors as much face time as possible without encroaching on timing and shots.
"It's a tough call too because in a lot of their storytelling, especially if the film's kind of progressive, you always want to have the actor's full head in the shot because they're acting and you want to see their face and you want to see them perform," Holcomb said. "You don't want to hear a bunch of dialogue behind a mask all the time, so I think we all noticed is as the films went on in time, especially in the case of Iron Man, you wanted to see his helmet either completely disappear or be folded up behind his head, but it had to happen pretty quick within some of these shots where they're delivering dialogue. I think in the case of the time suit one, I mean where does that suit go? It's got to come completely off. Russ and I have talked about this through several films. They only give you like two seconds to tell that story of where the helmet goes or where the suit comes off and it just goes so fast, you don't really have much, too many options."
"Yeah and I think that's the thing is we're always trying to, something, especially with the Russos, started back on Winter Soldier, is always trying to bring some sort of physicality and reality to it," Earl said. "It's the idea of it's magical, but it's got to feel like magic that you've photographed, or it's got to feel like tech that you've photographed. So that's always the balance where it's got to come off, but at the same time, we're trying to do things like preserve volume or make the pieces feel like they move and shift and something that Bruce is really good at is making it all feel like it's physically correct and happening. Even though it happens over a couple frames, those little things and paying attention to that detail I think helps sell the idea. Those time suits actually didn't have helmets when we first started working on them, they looked more like alien tech, the bubble helmets that you see in Guardians of the Galaxy. But then it ended up, the decision was made to go with more Ant Man-like helmets on those suits."
You can check out the suits in action in Avengers: Endgame, which is in theaters now.