Avengers: Endgame is the emotional culmination of twenty-two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Such a high-stakes finale and intricate “time heist” storyline demanded that the entire creative team work in unison and deploy all the skills they’ve learned over the course of multiple films and both individual and intertwined story arcs. Cinematographer Trent Opaloch was an integral part of the team who helped weave this daunting cinematic production together. He spoke exclusively with ProductionHUB about his work with the film, his work with VFX and how he differentiated this film visually from the others.
PH: How did you originally sign on to be a part of this project?
Trent Opaloch: I had been speaking about shooting Infinity War and End Game with the Russo Brothers while we were filming Civil War but it was all very loose and in the distance at that point. I was in San Jose for game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals when Joe called me and officially invited me on board for the two films. So that was a good trip.
PH: What was the visual process like? How did you work through the challenges you faced?
Trent Opaloch: We had a visual roadmap for the film with endless concept art from production designer Charlie Wood and his team so all of our conversations started there with everyone pitching in their feedback on the different directions certain sequences could go visually. Some of the biggest challenges came down to time management because we were still shooting Infinity War while prepping End Game so there were a lot of meetings after we wrapped for the day or little huddles on set discussing changes for the next film.
PH: One of the challenges you mention is working with lighting for the cast. How did you find balance and overcome this challenge?
Trent Opaloch: Some of the biggest challenges were the ensemble scenes with large groups of actors moving around through the scene. You can have a mix of actors with very light or dark skin tones in addition to characters with challenging fx makeup that requires its own lighting. In most of those cases, we would hide small additional lighting units within the scene that would be remotely brought up or down in output as needed depending on who it was affecting at the time.
PH: Can you talk a little about the collaborative effort with the VFX team?
Trent Opaloch: I've been able to work with some of the very best VFX teams out there. That relationship is invaluable especially in the early stages of a project where things are still being developed and defined as concepts. Most of the Marvel films I've done continue to develop and flow through different forms while shooting so it's important to get those updates as changes happen so we can keep up with things and match what we're doing on set to what they'll be doing in post.
PH: How were you able to branch out a bit from the other Marvel films to create a unique look and experience for this one?
Trent Opaloch: I think every film takes on its own personality and starts to define itself visually as you work through the script and start generating ideas with the team. Generally, we're pulling from a wide range of visual references and the overall tone of a specific scene can morph over time as you get new ideas or a rewrite of the scene pushes things in a different direction. The film then becomes the sum of all those decisions and begins to take on its own form.
PH: What lessons (if any) did you learn from working on this film?
Trent Opaloch: I've been really fortunate to work on some great projects in my career and often when you're about to start a new film that is quite a bit bigger than what you've done before it can seem a little daunting. But you sort of just jump in with everyone and get to work and in the end it's like a bunch of ants on an elephant. It's just one bite at a time.