Warning: Spoilers for Captain America: Civil War are in this article. Millions of people have watched the movie over the first weekend, why haven’t you?
Captain America: Civil War was a visual treat. If you stayed through the credits (and if you didn’t, you need to go back to the theater to watch again) you saw the lists of visual effects companies that were involved. With the use of modern technology, the team at Marvel made Tony Stark young, Scott Lang giant, and orchestrated a massive fight at an actual airport.
While Joe and Anthony Russo both have received a lot of praise for the film as a whole and the airport scene, it became possible thanks to more than just the two of them. One of the people that was responsible for working out the technicalities of the 17 minute scene was cinematographer Trent Opaloch. The Hollywood Reporter had the chance to talk Opaloch, who has previously worked with Marvel on Captain America: The Winter Soldier and will serve as the cinematographer for both parts of Avengers: Infinity War as well, and they talked a lot about the airport fight. One of first things they discussed was the security of the set itself.
We shut down one terminal and we had a little postage stamp of tarmac that we could shoot on. We had to go through security after breakfast and at lunchtime. All of the equipment had to be ferried in beforehand and it was gone over with dogs and inspectors, so we had to make sure we had everything we needed because once you started shooting, you couldn’t just reach into the truck and pull out something from the other side.
We also had a tight schedule with the cast. We shot a lot of the wide footage with stand-ins and stunt doubles. If we’d get Robert Downey Jr. in for a day, we’d shoot some of his stuff, then the other side of a conversation.
The Russos have previously stated using IMAX/ARRI Digital cameras. The newest ARRI Alexa 65’s were used with at the airport and was a decision made to get them more comfortable before using them exclusively in Infinity War. While the fight is large in terms of what we have seen so far, when the entire MCU roster takes on Thanos, this will seem smaller than Ant-Man in comparison. He revealed when they made the decision to use the cameras and how they were able to get some of the higher and harder shots.
There was an idea late in preproduction to shoot Civil War entirely with the Alexa 65, but we were so close to our start date and it was such a large-scale undertaking, [so we decided] to use it for this key sequence, and use it as the testing ground for Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2, which will be shot completely with those cameras.
Additionally, key grip Michael Coo developed a bungee rig system; Mark Goellnicht, our ‘A’ camera operator used a similar system on Mad Max: Fury Road. Basically, it’s a long bungee tube attached to a rope that will run up 30 or 40 feet; we suspend that line over the set. It allows the operators to get very dynamic and right in there with the action; it feels like handheld but they don’t have the brunt of the weight of the camera.
Due to the massive size of the fight and the characters, the scene was shot with IMAX screens in mind. The larger and wider screens gave them a bigger field to play with and expand the scope. It allowed for the shots to be more complex but also simpler to execute.
The great thing is there’s so much information in the screen. If it’s a wide shot, you might sit there a little longer, maybe with a slight camera move that allows the viewer to take it all in.
This scene in an of itself was shot in three different locations, Germany, Atlanta, and indoors, and at different times. It could have easily made the scene feel different due to changes in light, color, and more, but with the advances in editing, they were able to fix a lot of what was shot that ended up different.
That goes a long way to achieving a cohesive look thought the sequence. Like any exterior sequence that is drawn out over a number of days, you get weather inconsistencies. Germany was fairly consistent. Atlanta has very dynamic weather; you would have clouds that roll in and the skies out up and you’d have this incredible biblical rain. We would flee the tarmac set and go finish another part of the sequence indoors on greenscreen.
Even though they have known that they will use these cameras for some time, they are still being prepped for a nine month shoot. This includes assembly and manufacturing of the cameras themselves but also accessories. The many lenses that will be at their disposal will be a big help and has changed the game for filmmakers. Shortly, Opaloch will go over the script to figure out how they will go about shooting the film.
The Alexa 65 is a game changer as far as being another tool that allows you to think about telling stories in a different way; it has such a huge canvas. The scale and scope of Infinity Wars is so great, I think it’s going to be a fantastic match of filmmaking and technology.
We are still catching up on lens options; I’m having weekly conversations with the guy at ARRI (who are working on lenses with additional focal lengths). There’s a mad push to get them ready for Infinity Wars. As it stands, we are meant to have 12 Alexa 65 cameras for those films since we are shooting them back to back, and we’ll need all the accessories and lenses. [When we get the script] we’ll break down logistically how we’ll tackle this, with how many cameras and units. It such behemoth of a project.
Based on what Opaloch has done recently with Marvel, but also other films like District 9 and Elysium, I’m looking forward to seeing how the next 2 Avengers films are shot. As long as I get my wish, Opaloch will be responsible for filming a shot showing all of Marvel’s heroes standing next to each other, so the wide IMAX lenses that they’ll use with Alexa 65’s will certainly help with that. Let us know your thoughts on Opaloch’s comments and work in the comments below!
Captain America: Civil War in currently playing in theaters now.