Building from all four Avengers movies and other MCU team-ups, Marvel Studios ended 2021 with Jeremy Renner's first solo series, Hawkeye, on Disney+ in November and December. Kicking things off from the Battle of New York and exploring Renner's time long after leaving the Avengers following Avengers: Endgame, this show covered nearly two decades of adventures in the MCU timeline.
Almost fittingly, the first scene of the series took fans on a trip down memory lane by focusing on Clint Barton's first team-up with the Avengers in the Battle of New York. Although it was largely used to set up Kate Bishop's origin story for becoming the newest MCU hero, the Avengers' first time assembling helped set the tone for everything Hawkeye would add to the narrative.
This battle held more than its fair share of fun moments for fans, from the Hulk cameo that everybody missed to a deleted scene of Kingpin reminiscing on the event. However, according to a new interview, Hawkeye's version of the Big Apple came through much differently this time than it did over the past decade.
Hawkeye VFX in Full Effect with NYC
Speaking with befores & afters, ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Vincent Papaix shared how he and his team built New York City completely digitally for Marvel Studios' Hawkeye.
When asked how much reference material the team has for the city from past projects, Papaix shared that every past entry is archived so that the environments can look similar each time an asset is used. He revealed that this goes as far back as The Avengers in 2012, which they used to recreate NYC from "a point of view we had never seen before":
"Yes, every show is archived so that we can actually put it back online fi we’re working with the same client. So, it’s a process. It’s not like we have a folder and you simply click on it. It’s a lot of data, and files have to be restored from tape back-ups. We went as far back as Avengers, mostly to recreate that first sequence that the show starts with–the Avengers battle of New York. It was pretty fun to recreate that. So, what we did for that special sequence was, the brief was well, it needs to be like Avengers, just from a point of view we had never seen before. It needed to be seen through Kate’s eyes."
While working on Kate Bishop's house, Papaix and his team figured out that the location doesn't actually exist in the real world. In the end, this led them to put the Bishop residence on the very top of another building in the area:
"We managed to restore some geometry, but then we quickly realized that the Bishop house, the house where Kate lived, does not exist in real life. It’s a complete fabrication. So, we put it on top of one of the buildings."
Papaix then noted a major difference in how Hawkeye's Battle of New York environment was recreated in contrast to how it was initially designed for The Avengers: The ILM VFX team for the 2012 blockbuster went on location in New York City to physically capture "thousands" of HDRI shots above and below many buildings that would later be integrated into the movie's CG. However, Hawkeye's VFX team was unable to capture such shots due to lack of access, instead having to go for a "full CG approach" of the Battle of New York while using some photographs for reference:
"Now, the environment created for Avengers was pretty impressive–Jeff White, our Vancouver head of studio, told me how the ILM team went and shot thousands of HDRIs at so hundreds of points across that swath of Manhattan. So, they’d start in the street, then from a skylift about 50’ off the ground, then they managed to get access to some rooftop. For us, unfortunately, we didn’t have that, because we didn’t have access to rooftops, and also it was a new space. So, we decided to go for a full CG approach, using a lot of photography as reference. And then we did something similar for Rockefeller Center. So, we matched what we knew, but then we went for a full CG render."
No Real New York for Hawkeye Flashbacks
Almost no city in the world has spent more time on screen than New York City, which applies heavily to the MCU. Featured to some extent on-screen in more than a dozen Marvel Studios movies and Disney+ shows over the past 14 years, it's become one of the franchise's home bases in more ways than one.
Even for all that history, bringing the Big Apple to life with no real footage of the location is a feat in and of itself.
Although Kate Bishop's childhood home was only a few blocks away from Hawkeye's tussle with the Chitauri, it's a complex that fans can't actually visit while touring New York City's most iconic filming locations. Placing it on top of the building helped give young Kate a perfect vantage point to see what was going on in the battle, finding her own inspiration to become a hero.
Marvel Studios is known for its CGI work in regard to otherworldly locales and characters, although the visual effects team does just as good of a job with locations a little more recognizable too.
All six episodes of Hawkeye are available to stream on Disney+.