Former ArtFx students are included in the « Prometheus » : credits: Guillaume Berthoumieu, Charles Chorein, Antoine Goncalves, Arnaud Havart, Marc Menneglier, Bastien Muller… and Gérald Blaise, CG Artist at Moving Picture Company and who was at the helm of the film. He responds to our questions on the occasion of the film’s release in France.
How were you involved in the production of « Prometheus » ?
I was in charge of the model of the “ l’USCSS Prometheus ”, the human vessel in the film.
I was hired by MPC three years ago in order to do the vessel for « John Carter ». At that time, MPC had to create one of the sequences of the film while looking for a Hard Surface Modeler heavily based in science fiction, with a design sense, who was also versatile and capable of working on all types of models. The sequence didn’t make it into the film, but since then I have worked on « Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows » and « X-Men: First Class » among others. Being Mr. “ Robot and Vessel ” of the department, when « Prometheus » arrived, almost 2 years ago now, they turned to me for the vessel, which they originally called “ Magellan ”.
This began with the pre-viz stage, during which I followed the ideas of Ridley Scott concerning the general form and the function of the vessel. Once the pre-model was validated, it was sent to Ben Procter (« Transformers » designer) in Los Angeles so he could rapidly do the paint over on the model. Following his 2 or 3 concepts, I modeled and developed all the details until Ridley Scott was happy with the final model.
In all, I took care of 75 % of the vessel. The lead modeler of the film made the cockpit while Thomas Mansencal, a very good friend and talented Modeler, created the rescue capsule at the back of the engine. For the finishing touches, I recovered the model, including the cockpit, added another layer of details (the paneling and other tubing, exhaust system, etc.) in order to reinforce the scale of “ Prometheus ”, 170 meters long, before handing it off to the Texture Artists.
My mission consisted also of making all the modifications necessary so everything would be mechanically viable and credible; The biggest changes that I did in this realm was at the level of the engines,from the landing gear and the forward heat shields.
Concerning the creation of the film’s vessel, what were your sources of inspiration?
J’ai utilisé pas mal de références issues d’horizons très différents.
I utilized quite a number of different horizons. The global design was done by Ben Procter, the question for me was, « How to plausibly render all the details of this engine? ».
My principle source was “ Nostromo ”, the ship from the 1st « Alien », and its original mock-up, which was brought out and photographed for the occasion. In the beginning, I was working from an asymmetric and very dirty aspect, ‘a space truck’ which was the idea of the 1st « Alien », with the old “ Nostromo ” cabin.
But Ridley Scott wanted a luxurious prototype for “Prometheus,” a sort of Rolls Royce in space. I, therefore, went looking for inspiration from Yoji Shinkawa and his « Art of Metal Gear Solid » (especially MGS 2 and 4) or the « Art of Shoji Kawamori » with “ Macross ” and “ Armored Core ”. These are the 2 artists who have really inspired my work.
I also watched quite a bit of « Art of Eve online » which was a big inspiration, Syd Mead and Chris Foss as well, and finally the inevitable and numerous vessels of « Star Wars » which remained an inexhaustible source of details (“greebles” being the technical term).
The objective was to obtain a concentration of plausible details, with a good balance between the highest level of details and “à nu” of the vessel, and the smooth and elegant spaces.
I believe that here is the secret of a craft which functions on the big screen : a spaceship which projects a feeling of power and weight while being realistic in terms of scale, all with the somewhat anatomical details which breathe life into it.
What technical constraints did you encounter?
The biggest constraint was the number of polygons and the weight of all the textures, MPC did not have an infinitely powerful renderfarm like in certain other companies. But, we had a tight planning schedule, just the same, so we could not have allowed really lengthy rending times.
In the end, the entire vessel was around 3 500 000 polygons, which is not bad at all, considering all the details which had been modeled: the rescue capsule and the interior of the cockpit, the cargo bay and everything that could be seen through the windows. It is necessary to know also that the integration of half of the vessel and all of the propulsion system was modeled in a realistic manner, which is to say, with the thickness of each plate and each bolt as if the vessel had really been mechanically assembled. The idea being to create a complete and realistic model for the FX artists to use in the final collision scene between “ Prometheus ” and the famous “ Derelict ” (here known under the name “ Juggernaut ”).
What is the biggest mark that this adventure has left on you?
To be in charge of a large part of work on the principal vessel for a special effects film directed by Ridley Scott has been a super experience. Even more so, for a film linked to the « Alien », saga, which was for me, like for so many others, one of the films which made me want to enter this field.
There was, just the same, a moment which I will remember for a long time, it was when someone asked me to place the Weyland Industry logo in the cabin of the vessel. You should know that on all the robots and all the vessels that I have been able to make up to now, in all of my concept designs and all of my models, I have always added a hidden Weyland logo, in honor of « Alien ». It was being the first time that someone actually asked me to put it on and to make it visible!
I should say that the first time that I saw the vessel on the screen in IMAX was also a really big moment for me.
Any final comments?
I would like to address a little personal thought to the ArtFx students and especially to Gilbert Kiner, who must have been really entertained by seeing this monster on the screen while remembering the crazy young modeler who he had tried to contain during the creation of « Koda » almost seven years ago.
For more information
Images of the vessel
Source : www.prometheusfrance.com
[small_button]English version by Danielle Harrell, English teacher for ArtFx[/small_button]