You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ VFX Supervisor Transforms Live Action Into Special Effects

Variety logo Variety 7/20/2017 Daron James
© Provided by Variety

When visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk came on board to oversee imagery for Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” reuniting with the director after a 20-year hiatus, he didn’t anticipate the massive amount of concept artwork he would encounter.

“I was overwhelmed when I first joined and saw the concept art. It was on a scale that I hadn’t seen before,” Stokdyk says. “Luc had been working with concept artists all around the world for years, but as we started bringing in world-class companies like Weta Digital, ILM and Rodeo FX [to turn the art into moving images], that’s when we really started to wrap our heads around it.”

Set in the 28th century, the sci-fi epic, which STX Entertainment is releasing in the U.S. on July 21, is based on the French comic-book series “Valerian and Laureline.” In the film, the two characters are played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. They’re sent on a mission to the metropolis of Alpha, where a mysterious dark force threatens the existence of the so-called City of a Thousand Planets.

For complicated scenes, like those taking place in Alpha’s Big Market, a bustling bazaar run by pirate captain Igon Siruss (voiced by John Goodman), Besson shot entire sequences using students in Paris as stand-ins and edited them together. “It was something I had never done before with other directors, where instead of visual effects artists creating the pre-visualization inside a computer, Luc actually went out and shot something for us,” Stokdyk says.

The film’s creatures were shot using motion capture on a bluescreen with cameras rigged by Weta Digital. Human actors interacted with the alien characters wearing motion-capture suits; then a pass with only human characters was recorded — all to be transformed in post.

During the shooting of emotional creature scenes, Stokdyk did little to intervene. “Luc is a camera operator too, so a lot of [the job] was observing his process and then getting out of the way — and stepping in for a quick moment to give him the information needed for visual effects,” he says.

Stokdyk adds that Weta’s advanced mo-cap technology let Besson shoot the VFX-heavy film organically, as if it were “a normal movie.  … Everything we were doing on set was geared toward giving Luc a live-action experience.”

Each creature had its own set of challenges. For Bubble, a shape-shifter played by Rihanna, physical motions were filmed to create her morphing effect. “A lot of it was a leap of faith, knowing that Weta could replace an arm, leg or even a face if needed,” Stokdyk says. “The technology gives us freedom to make something interesting.”

Subscribe to Variety Newsletters and Email Alerts!

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Variety

AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon