At the time of the production of Avengers Endgame, Weta Digital already had quite a sizable amount of VFX work on their plates. And, aside from planning multiple future Avatar movies, they were also working on Alita: Battle Angel.
But, that didn’t mean that they weren’t able to still deliver some amazing VFX for Avengers
Weta Digital worked mostly on the 3rd act battle scene of the film which takes place on the rubble of the Avengers compound.
Now, seeing as the Avengers compound was situated next to a forested area beside the Hudson river, debris from all the destruction also featured some tree stumps.
The only problem was, after compiling a rough cut pre-visualization of all the shots filmed, all those lovely broken tree stumps made it seem more like they were fighting in a smashed up forest rather than a demolished Avengers compound.
So Weta took on the tedious tasks of rotoscoping out all the actors in order to replace the background with less trees.
The lighting of the backgrounds throughout the fight was designed to subtly change in accordance to what was happening in battle. For example, Thanos destroying the Avengers compound or when our heroes seem to be in a position of desperation, the lighting was dark and gloomy but when help arrives through the portals, it brightens up slightly. These subtle lighting changes were added to almost subliminally tell the audience who’s winning in the fight.
Creating the huge portals was challenging. For Endgame, these needed to be huge, making it way more involved than the ones from previous movies.
Sparks needed to be spinning really fast and floating while, at the same time, cooling off, causing some particles to fall and others to float away.
To make it all look more natural, they created custom simulations to behave as wind fields.
This was then passed on to the lighting team along with some controls to alter the size and length of the sparks the time of rendering.
Captain Marvel’s costume was initially designed to be similar to the 2024-era Captain Marvel look. However, filmmakers changed their mind post production and wanted it to look even cooler. So, Weta were tasked with creating a CG costume for her instead.
The Mark 85 suit in Avengers Endgame needed to keep a sense of flexibility while at the same time not looking cheap, plastic, knock off, halloween costume.
So, seeing as the red and gold areas are more noticeable than the grey parts, they were able to hide a lot of stretching in those gray parts, clever. This meant they could preserve the sense of rigidity in the suit’s material while, at the same time, giving it the flexibility they needed.
Aside from some extra fixes to Thanos’ facial rig that they didn’t have time to fix in Infinity War, Thanos was, essentially, a different Thanos from the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy era.
But, instead of de-aging his face, they made animation changes to his fighting style and movement, making him look more agile and stronger, having him appear more like a warrior in heavy armor.
However, due to the design of his armour looking as restrictive as wearing a suit made of cardboard boxes, they did a lot of things behind the scenes to give him full flexibility while still allowing his armor to appear rigid.
Weta built Thanos using their muscle system that scans ahead of the animation, searching for any movement that would require muscles to contract beforehand. You can see a good example of that in this shot. Notice how his bicep fires a couple of frames before he actually moves?
Subtle muscle twitches and flexes were also added in shots where Thanos was stood still to greatly improve the realism.
And finally we come to what Weta calls the ‘Blip’ effect. You know, when all the bad guys turn into dust.
Watching the almighty Thanos satisfyingly turn into dust and get carried away by a gentle breeze was all thanks to some very carefully timed and well crafted work.
They created a simple 2 colour mask with the same growth algorithm used in the final effect that they could quickly update with any necessary timing changes. This allowed them to not only be able to show VFX supervisors how the blip would transition over Thanos’ body but also, once the client was happy, it could then be matched 1 to 1 as Thanos turns into dust.
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