I was at a meeting at multi discipline powerhouse Territory the other day and conversation got round to the work they have done for a couple of recent mega films – Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty.
They are usually commissioned for all sorts of interesting types of work – websites, iOS apps, channel idents, game trailers and print design. However I was particularly interested in the area of animating screens and projections for movies. It’s definitely an area that adds a lot of realism to the movie experience, and always leaves me wanting to have the same experience in my everyday life, but somehow my car HUD just isn’t the same…
I spoke to David Sheldon-Hicks who told me there were hundreds of computer graphics and projections to design and animate both on-set and in post. Amongst other things they were tasked with bringing to life the Weyland Corporate logo.
David also told me how the job came about: “Territory had been going for just under a year when we got a call out of the blue from George Simons, an on-set graphics supervisor. He’d heard that I’d worked on other film set graphics as a freelancer in the past through a mutual friend at Mainframe.
We showed George some of the work Territory had completed on Killzone 3, we signed some NDA’s and we were then told the news that Ridley Scott needed spaceship graphics for his new film Prometheus. It was a really surreal moment! Blade Runner and Alien are in my top ten films, so to work with Ridley and the team was an amazing opportunity.
I recommended Shaun Yue as another motion designer to provide on site support, as Territory worked out of there Farringdon studio, away from the day to day rigours of filming. Paul Roberts and John Hill at Vincent also offered extra support when things got really busy.
The VFX side of the job followed on several months from after principal filming had finished. Richard Stammers had heard good things about Territory and asked us to supply designs and animations for MPC and the other VFX vendors to post in. This also lead to Richard and Ridley exploring title designs and animations with us for several months.
David said “Ridley Scott was great to work for and very free with his direction on what he wanted us to do. For some of the graphics we used animatronic heads which we then scanned in 3D, and then used a combination of Maya, cinema 4D and After Effects to get them ready.
Zero Dark Thirty - Kathryn Bigelow’s feature film required computer screens depicting aerial surveillance. Territory’s CGI and design team created the scenes from scratch to be played back on-set and posted into shots afterwards.
David told me how this film came about as well: “Zero Dark Thirty came about from a much smaller job called The Numbers Station. TNS required alot of designs very quickly, so we put in some long hours and weekends to deliver in time. Some friends on this production moved onto Zero Dark Thirty, and recommended us for work on that as well. At the time all the predator vision displays were going to be handled in VFX, but Kathryn Bigelow the director wasn’t sold on this idea.
The film had to feel authentic, so the actors reactions to what they saw in CIA head quarters needed to feel real. Peter our head of 3D at Territory quickly mocked up some visuals in cinema 4D, using motion-capture 3D figures as a representation of a terrorist base from an aerial view. This was projected on-set as a camera test, and Kathryn was extremely pleased we didn’t need to do any of the screen work against green. From that point our scope of work grew throughout the film.”
I know these films came out last year, but I still felt like other UK motion design companies would like to know that this sort of work is out there and that the UK studios are punching above their weight in this regard. Hopefully this will be an inspiration for other people to go and get stuck into Hollywood…
Credits: Zero Dark Thirty: Director Kathryn Bigelow, Creative Direction: David Sheldon-Hicks, VFX animation: Peter Eszenyi
Prometheus: Directed by Ridley Scott, Set Decorator: Sonja Klaus, Senior Art Director: Karen Wakefield, Screen Graphics Supervisor: George Simons, Screen Design and Animation:Carl Fairweather, David Sheldon-Hicks, John Hill, Lee Fasciani, Luke Halls, Nick Glover, Paul Roberts, Rheea Aranha, Ryan Close, Sam Vacquier, Shaun Yue, Playback by Mark Jordan, Richard Oldfield and team.