With the visually arresting sci-fi imagery created by Animal Logic for Prometheus, Director, Ridley Scott was keen to collaborate with the team on the sequel Alien: Covenant.
With the guidance of VFX Supervisor, Paul Butterworth a team of 70 artists at Animal Logic worked over a 12 month period to create 200 shots for the film. The talented crew focused on the holographic projections in the Covenant’s bridge, the ghostly holographic beacon in the crashed Juggernaut, and a flashback sequence featuring the Orrery – the iconic star map hologram that was designed for Prometheus.
Following Ridley’s creative direction to stay true to the design aesthetic established in Prometheus, Animal Logic’s designers and animators brought to life numerous individual 3D display components referencing F-35 fighters and Airbuses. Paul said, “making these holographic sequences can appear pretty straightforward, but they are considerably difficult. Some of the reasons for this are because it takes a painstaking amount of time to make holographic elements look good up close from all angles but also be able to blend into the background when needed.”
The key story sequence in the film is when the crew discovers the ghostly holographic beacon in the crashed Juggernaut. The original model of the Juggernaut interior was restored from archive and used as a base. The surfacing team then spent a lot of time using the in-house procedural shading system to add textural complexity such as dirt and grime to reflect how parts of the ship had weathered the elements. Apart from creating the interior of the Juggernaut, a huge challenge of the scene was resurrecting the ghostly holographic apparition of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). While a similar holographic concept had been designed for Prometheus, in Alien: Covenant, a higher level of detail and subtlety in performance was required. Paul said, “finding that balance between organic, artificially generated and ‘photo real’ was difficult!”
We also see the beautiful Orrery ‘star map’ make a comeback. Using the Orrery created in Prometheus as reference, the team built the new star map from scratch as an FX system within the Houdini pipeline. According to Paul, despite only seeing the Orrery in a few shots he said, “it was fun to revisit and explore this iconic piece of work again.”
A substantial amount of the imagery created was made possible with Animal Logic’s proprietary renderer, Glimpse.