…and how past-Cap’s cowl was a late addition to THE shots.
Spoilers! It might just be the coolest scene in Avengers: Endgame – when Captain America, having traveled back in time to the New York of The Avengers, meets his own self (who mistakes future Cap for Loki) and the two engage in a brutal fight.
Bringing the ‘twinning’ scene to the screen involved shooting with the real actor, stunt stand-ins, and then delivering CG environments, face replacement and even CG cowl additions when it was realized the audience may be confused which Cap was which. befores & afters asked production visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw and Lola VFX visual effects supervisor Trent Claus how it was done.
Learning a section of the fight minutes before shooting it. Sam and Daniel Hargrave are LEGENDS. Stuntmen and women are the unsung heroes of the marvel world. https://t.co/mu5jgYyEbh pic.twitter.com/Nfx8UiZw4k
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) May 17, 2019
Planning for Cap vs. Cap
DeLeeuw gives a major shout out to the stunts team for designing an elaborate fight for the sequence, and to production designer Charlie Wood for pitching that it be staged in an open glass-filled interior, the kind you tend to find in skyscraper lobbies. Ultimately, the fight would mostly be filmed against greenscreen on a partial set.
“On this set we had Chris Evans and we had Sam Hargrave, who was our stunt co-ordinator on Civil War and Infinity War, and he was second unit directing on Endgame,” outlines DeLeeuw. “He hadn’t played Cap in a while, but back in the day he played Cap in the Cap versus Winter Soldier fight, so it was like his return to the character.”
“Typically when we shoot fight scenes like this,” continues DeLeeuw, “we’ll have two stunt groups of people go out and fight, and they’ll fight really fast. And then you’ll bring Chris in and you shoot their side of it; then they’ll fight against each other, and they’ll fight against the stunt person. You’d shoot the scene with the more violent work with two stunt people, bring Chris in for the close-ups of that, and then when you need Chris to swap sides, you’d swap sides.”
“But when we shot it, the plan was to not have a cowl, i.e. not have the helmet on one of the Caps. These were reasons we thought at the time: one, in a sense it’ll be harder, visual effects wise, but it’ll be cooler. Because you’ll have Chris, you’ll see you’re not using the cowl as a cheat, you’re using just face replacement and see Chris on both sides. But ironically when people saw it, they were having trouble keeping track of who was good Cap and who was bad Cap.”
Face and cowl
The result was a decision to add a CG cowl on the original Avengers Captain America so that viewers could tell the two Caps apart. That visual effects work, along with face replacement, fell to Lola VFX (which also worked on several de-ageing and ageing shots: see befores & afters’ #endgameweek coverage for more on this).
“Sometimes Chris Evans was the 2012 Captain America and sometimes Chris was the present day Captain America,” explains Lola VFX visual effects supervisor Trent Claus. “On some shots, he played both parts. So we would shoot it once with him in one position, and then we’d swap – there was a stunt double for the other. And then we would shoot again with him in the other outfit.”
Lola had to account for several ways of dealing with the ‘same’ character in the same scene. For example, one particular shot had one of the Caps with the other in a headlock, when the other blurts out that Bucky is still alive, making the other Cap step back and release and say, ‘What?’ “For that shot,” says Claus, “it was a split comp. So those are both Chris, where we comp’ed the two together. But it’s always Chris’ face in all of the shots for both Caps.”
Lighting was key
The biggest challenge for the scene – in terms of face replacement and the CG cowl – was lighting, notes Claus. “The lighting has to match what’s happening on set. The first giveaway for the audience is if the light source is coming from the wrong way or it’s baked in, it’s static, and not being affected by movement on set. That’s a dead giveaway. It’s definitely something we try very hard to fix. And that’s where we’ve put all that effort into refining our own lighting rig so that we can recreate that dynamic lighting.”
Lola’s lighting rig (dubbed the ‘egg’) is a spherical light rig filled with LEDs and pin spots that the actor sits in. It was used to acquire shots of Evans grunting and squinting and fighting and making other faces as required. It helped, in particular, to deliver very complex lighting, i.e. If Cap is rolling around on the floor every few frames, it could be entirely different lighting over several frames.
“You just want the audience to not even think about it,” concludes Claus, in terms of the final Cap vs. Cap shots. “You want them to just accept that these two guys are fighting each other and they’re both there and they’re human and they’re existing in the same space. I think we managed to pull it off.”
Feature image: screenshot from official TV spot. © Marvel 2019.
Explore more of our in-depth Avengers: Endgame coverage during #endgameweek.