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23 August 2013

Elysium - A VFX breakdown


Hello readers,

Today I want to talk about Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi epic "Elysium", but I will try my hardest not to make this blog a movie review. No spoilers guaranteed.

Image courtesy of Google images
 
 It was back in June 2009 when a movie trailer showing an image of a huge extra-terrestrial ship hovering over the city of Johannesburg, brought film director Neill Blomkamp to my attention. This film was "District 9", a mockumentary about an alien race forced to live on earth in slum-like conditions. With a budget of $30 million, the film was a huge success with a worldwide gross profit of $210 million.

 
 Teaming up with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, Blomkamp wowed audiences with his writing, directing and technical vision, developed during the making of short films and projects he's worked on, as well as from his background in the CGI/VFX industry. Taking nothing away from the directing and the writing it was the visual aspect of "District 9" that really impressed me. I remember being amazed by the standard of the CGI work, it wasn't over the top and there was a real gritty feel to it; a realism and a subtlety that worked perfectly with the bleak vision portrayed by Blomkamp in the film.

Image courtesy of Google images

When Neill Blomkamp announced to the world he was working on his second sci-fi story "Elysium" you can imagine my excitement. I was fortunate to be able to go and see "Elysium" last night and I wasn't disappointed. Visually the film is a masterpiece and has really raised the bar of VFX. Getting a sense of realism was a must for Blomkamp, this resulted in a push on creating as many of the shots in camera and on set as possible. Achieving this required numerous models, sets, miniatures, props and some really hard core location filming. This can only be a good thing for films going forward as having physical props and locations will massively improve acting performances, which have dipped in recent years with the over use of green screens.


Image courtesy of Google images
Image courtesy of Google images
 
Blomkamp teamed up with a whole host of studios on Elysium from Image Engine, Weta Workshop, Whiskeytree, Method Studios, ILM, The Embassy and MPC. Along with legendary concept artist Syd Mead, Blomkamp's vision has been brought to life in spectacular fashion.

Fxguide.com have put together an excellent and detailed breakdown of some of the films most breath-taking shots. The link for the page is at the end of this blog.

The movie is set in Los Angeles in the year 2154, with the city looking polluted and diseased. Filming took place in Mexico in one of the worlds largest rubbish dumps. This perfectly depicted the desperation and misery of the people left to try and make a life on earth, Whereas the people fortunate enough to reside on Elysium live in paradise free of crime and illness. To achieve this paradise filming was completed in Malibu and with the use of digital matte paintings Elysium was created. 

Original footage of Malibu. Image courtesy of fxguide and Whisketree


Final scene after VFX and matte painting background. Image courtesy of fxguide and Whiskytree
 
The droids in the film were achieved using a technique of using stunt men in grey tracking suits who were replaced with the 3d digital models in the post production stage. This allowed the actors to interact with the proposed droids giving both a greater performance.

Matt Damon with grey suit stunt men. Image courtesy of fxguide and Image Engine 

Post produced droids added into the final edit. Image courtesy of fxguide and Image Engine
 
 I've only touched upon the full article with this blog but I thoroughly recommend it. It's not often I am left totally speechless and totally inspired by a film. Recognition must be given to everyone who worked on the film especially the art department, all VFX teams, the actors for some great performances and finally the director for bringing it altogether. What an achievement.

Go and see it and share with us you're thoughts on the film. I've added some of the amazing visuals from this film below.

Image courtesy of Google images.

Images courtesy of Google images.

Image courtesy of Google images.
 
 http://www.fxguide.com/featured/elysium-a-practical-miniature-and-digital-fx-odyssey/

Ryan Blackburn - Media Productions
www.sovibrant.co.uk

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