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‘Avengers: Endgame’ Cinematographer Breaks Down His Favorite Scenes

Framing the Scene: 'Avengers: Endgame' cinematographer deconstructs two emotional scenes

Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Tony Stark/Iron Man
Marvel Studios 2019

After 11 years and 23 movies, “The Infinity Saga” (and Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) came to an end with “Avengers: Endgame.” Cinematographer Trent Opaloch, who had previously worked on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” was tasked to work on the final Avengers films: “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Having worked on a Marvel movie before, Opaloch knew just what he needed to do to close the franchise out. The emotional gauntlet that the film was going to put its viewers through was at an all-time high.

The film picks up days after Thanos wipes out half of the universe. It begins with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) losing his family, obliterated to dust. Adding to the powerful punch, we see Tony Stark/Iron Man floating in space, his ship is slowing being starved of oxygen, and he has no food or water. The scene is one that Opaloch picked to examine for Variety‘s “Framing the Scene” series.

The other scene Opalach chose to talk about was the “Fat Thor” reveal, which stands out in “Avengers” because it’s not set in space or another environment. “We got to use natural lighting for that scene,” says Opalach.

Tony Stark Sends an Emotional Message to Pepper Potts

There are a few somber scenes in the film and this is one of them. It’s a little different from a lot of the work we’ve done before. For a lot of the scenes, it’s just one character. What I loved about it was that there’s a very lonely feel to it. This film has such a huge cast and there’s an ensemble piece in every scene. This was so nice because it was really one character and you’re in a cramped space.

We see Tony sending a goodbye message to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). The lighting is contrasting and dark, and we played it really down. There’s a cyan light coming in from the ship’s window. It’s a light that was meant to be generated by deep space and the Starscape. The lighting shows you where he is emotionally and physically.

The one thing to know about that piece was that it was very vertical. There was a very steep ladder and it was placed on a gyroscope so we could move it to simulate the movement in space. It was tough for the guys to get the lights where we needed to get them.

Robert Downey Jr. really brings a lot to the staging of a scene. He will always make it his own. As soon as we figured out where he was lying and how he was going to be silhouetted against the Starscape in the background, you get this beautiful lonely image.

When we were blocking it, we realized we needed to add a whole bank of lights underneath so there was something in his low looks. We had to make these micro-decisions during the shoot day. It could have bitten us had we not taken the extra time and attention.

“Fat Thor’s” Reveal

For this scene, we shot the establishing footage in St Abbs, Scotland. It’s a small fishing village that we found. We shot the interiors of Thor’s cabin in Pinewood. What I loved was that we used natural lighting in contrast to the rest of the film because they’re in otherworldly environments.

This was super simple and basic. It was a nice palette cleanser in terms of lighting and worlds. It’s a funny mix of elements in the scene.

Mark Ruffalo is “Smart Hulk” and he performs much of that scene on decks to raise him up for the eye lines. There are some aliens on the couch playing “Fortnite.”

Then there’s this huge reveal of [Chris] Hemsworth’s belly, which is prosthetic. We all had been looking forward to that. We’d seen different iterations of that, and it just looked incredible.

The seam of the suit was on the back, and they cleaned that up in post. To the eye, the suit looked incredibly realistic. It was the first time I ever backlit a beer belly.

It was a great performance from Hemsworth after his failure to correct what Thanos had done. It was an eccentric collection of characters, and there was an emotional heartbeat to his performance.