Hawkeye VFX Boss Breaks Down Epic Car Chase Sequence

Halfway through Hawkeye, the street-level Marvel show introduced one of the most active action scenes the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen. On the run from the Tracksuit Mafia, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) lead a car chase through much of New York. As you might expect from major studios these days, none of the chase was actually filmed within the Big Apple. Instead, the vast majority of the filming took place in Atlanta.

We recently caught up with Weta Digital‘s Thrain Shadbolt, the New Zealand-based VFX supervisor that led Weta’s team on Hawkeye. Shadbolt and his team were responsible for taking that car chase and making sure it look as if it was heading through the heart of NYC.

“Now, that was probably the single most challenging shot that we had to do, because it was actually made up of three separate shots, which we then had to effectively connect together to make it look like a seamless whole,” Shadbolt says of the moment Barton and Bishop leave the toy store and begin the chase.

He adds, “That was pretty challenging because not only was there the idea of having to stitch these things together to make them all work, but the camera rigs set up on the car also obscured, through the back window in particular, obscured large parts of the plate at various times. There was a hole cut in the ceiling of the car as well, because it was shot for real, but the stunt driver was basically sitting out the back and above the car. So there was a lot of supporting material for him to drive the car while Clint and Kate are doing their thing.

To make it seamless, Weta had to go through and reconstruct most of the background plates to place the scene in New York. They also had to reconstruct the car’s interior in an attempt to make the sequence appear seamless.

Despite the healthy use of CGI in the scene, Shadbolt makes sure to point out there was always a practical, real-life car used in every shot.

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“Once we get up on the bridge when you’re looking at the cars, is really the mix of a real car, augmented with shadows and reflections from the CG environment back onto the cars,” Shadbolt concludes. “And vice versa, shadows from the cars, real cars onto the CG environment, which we do by basically starting with a very tight match move of each vehicle in the frame along with the camera. So we could match exactly what the cars were doing on the plate and then mix and match our CG rendered cars with what was real and vice versa.”

Every episode of Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.

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