Iron Man is down for the count. Thor is out of commission. Captain America stands alone. How will his fight against Thanos unfold? What tricks does the villain still have in mind and what moves will Cap command, with a little help from a mighty hammer?
Capping off Marvel’s Infinity Saga and a cinematic arc of 21 preceding films, Avengers: Endgame had a huge scope of interwoven action and storytelling. While it all comes together seamlessly in the finished movie, putting together the details of what would happen in each shot, what the characters would be doing, how the camera would frame it and how each beat and scene would play out was another affair.
The script provides an outline and storyboards are often available as a visual guide. But it was up to a team at THE THIRD FLOOR to help develop and build out the vision of would happen from A to B as moving 3D shots before any frames were filmed. Working with directors Anthony and Joe Russo, Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Deleeuw, Film Editor Jeff Ford and other collaborators for multiple years, THE THIRD FLOOR visualized some 40 sequences and more than 7,300 shots for Endgame. From comedic scenes like Hulk in the diner and shots sending Scott Lang back and forth into the Quantum Tunnel to weighty moments like Hawkeye and Black Widow making impossible choices on Vormir or Thanos’ ship making a deadly air strike, the work of visualization artists both before and after the shoot made a lasting imprint on the final, realized scenes.
Being able to preview and virtually plan for any aspect has indeed become a must-have for many Hollywood projects, and THE THIRD FLOOR has been leader in helping map out cinematic projects for more than 10 years. That includes 18 Marvel theatrical releases in the past decade – from Iron Man 2 to both Guardians of the Galaxy movies to each Ant-Man film, all three Thor movies, all four Avengers movies and beyond.
Visualization Supervisor Gerardo Ramirez has been The Third Floor’s visualization supervisor for multiple MCU films, including Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War and more. As the sole team providing visualization services for both Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War, Ramirez and The Third Floor were able to put all of their knowledge and experience of working in the Marvel universe of characters and stories to good use.
Starting with anything from boards to director discussions to scripts, beatsheets and brainstorms, the team dug deep to find the best creative ideas for how the final fight between Thanos, Iron Man, Cap and Thor would go down. Ramirez had artists pitch as many interactions as they could between the four characters, working them into moving animation with the best ideas and actions folding into a pre-edit of the scene.
“The sequence was visualized in such a way that the audience would feel the end is near for our big three Avengers – that we had them at a low point, so the moment when Captain America gets Thor’s hammer in addition to his shield becomes that much more ‘earned,’” said Ramirez. “Our artists were asked to build out the coolest and best fight moves they wanted to see Cap perform with those two weapons. Our visualization of that sequence presented to the filmmakers came together using the most goosebump-inducing of those moves.”
Visualization not only involves complex brainstorming, but thoughtfully putting together sequences to pull different emotions from the audience. A pivotal scene that sets a good example is when the heroes reunite for battle.
“We visualized the epic moment when the lost heroes return through the portals in both previs and in postvis with the shot plates,” Ramirez explained. “We knew this would be one of the most important and memorable scenes so we really focused on brainstorming and laying out the action to serve the vision. In the end, we presented the filmmakers with two takes on the ‘arrival’ — one more emotional, with a slower, more dramatic pace, and one with high energy where the heroes arrive mid charge. The final outcome is a blend of the two versions, so you get both the emotional moment and the energy of the charge and clash.”
The final battle was the largest and most challenging sequence, requiring the design of action and flow of shots to balance several overlapping stories and character moments while maintaining the energy and chaos of war. The battle sequence covered not just the clash of armies but also the portals opening, the lost heroes returning and everyone assembling for a final charge.
“We knew this was the moment everyone had been waiting for so we felt that we needed to exhaust every exciting option,” recalled Ramirez. “The directors pitched us to come up with an exciting shot – dubbed the One’r — that would take the audience through a portion of the battle right when the two armies clashed. In the shot they wanted to see many of the returning heroes in action and have the audience feel like were right there amongst the battle.”
As a devoted MCU visualization team, The Third Floor was able to put their creative heads together to thoughtfully develop action sequences with the film team that resonate with the audience, making for a historic ending to the Infinity Saga. Evolving characters new and old, envisioning battles and iconic moments, going back in time to revisit earlier films THE THIRD FLOOR’s artists worked on like the original Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy movies — all leading up to an epic showdown.
“One of the great things about having worked on many Marvel films is that we’ve been able to grow with the characters and story along the way,” Ramirez said. “We’ve been able to achieve a high level of consistency with directors, producers, executives and others and have a truly collaborative process for designing and developing scenes, stories, technical breakdowns and preparing for editorial, visual effects and test screenings using streamlined postvis. Marvel is a real proponent of creativity, and the idea that a good idea can come from anyone.”
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