Alien Covenant: MPC designs Neomorphs and Xenomorphs

leading from

a) MPC start on the Neomorphs

a.i) Levallois' neomorph
Stephan Levallois first idea for a Neomorph  showed up as a sketch of a humanoid creature with a very lean body, a head with a long spike as the back, and arms that appeared to look like featherless bird wings. His idea was to give it translucent skin with cracks in it and a very lean body.

a.ii) Leandre begins

Wednesday 17th June 2015 
The first day that MPC worked on ideas for the project, and it was still called Paradise.
As part of MPC, Leandre Lagrange was involved quite early in their concept work.  

The original brief for the Neomorph was very vague, they were told that  "it's going to be more organic", rather than biomechanical.

On the first day, they spent their time just exploring and trying different things.  

People could start off with their most crazy ideas to let themselves loose while they were not really sure which direction they were supposed to be going.  
What Lagrange found himself dealing with was something that was a merger between the idea of the "xenomorph" and the facehugger. Also, the beast didn't specifically have to be bipedal either, and the idea would soon evolve into something like a weird spider.

Paradise Neomorph 17th June 2015

On the first day of the project, it was a crazy day for Legrange, they had to come up with everything they could think of and try to come up with crazy ideas, but this was his early Neomorph, but they didn't know which direction it was supposed to go.

So the plan was to explore the facehugger form, and so on, it needed to be more organic than biomechanical, they were trying things and play with things, they look for inspiration in things in nature that related to it, mixing things and after that it was free sketching

Paradise Neomorph 17th June 2015

  1. Leandre Lagrange : For Alien: Covenant, we were involved pretty early in those [concepts]. You’ll see a lot of sculpts that are very quick... the original [brief] for the Neomorph was very vague: ‘it’s going to more organic [rather than biomechanical]’. At that point, we spent a day just exploring and trying things. From there, he [Ridley Scott] was thinking, ‘OK, it’s going to be an organic biped.’ Leandre also says that working on the movie required that he respond, to some degree, to the design work of Ridley Scott’s previous entry in the Alien mythology(3D.Artist.-.September.2019)
  2. Lagrange: That was part of the first day of the project that, those were, that was the bonkers day, that's the day where you just get loose, just take everything you can think of and try to come up with like crazy ideas, and this actually was the Neomorph, but at the time we didn't quite know what the direction was already. That was just us trying
    ZBrush podcast: So you just kind of try, they just get to let you loose

    Lagrange: Yeah

    ZBrush podcast: Come up with whatever you want

    Lagrange: Exactly, so we just ah, We.

    ZBrush podcast:  This is such a great piece, did you, you, like for your, you know a lot of people don't like the word workflow, but when you start with something like this, cause you kind of have, you already have a vision in your mind

    Lagrange: Erm

    ZBrush podcast: Or do you just

    Lagrange: Erm, I have maybe an idea, so you know like, we plan with the facehugger um, and things like that, um we knew it needed to be organic more than biomechanical, that xenomorph would be, so that's like very much trying things like that, and then you can play on things, you know like, you look at the, um, the facehugger, and you kind of look for inspirations, like things in nature that relates to that

    ZBrush podcast: Right

    Lagrange: So, it's just mixing things like that and  after that it's free sketching

    ZBrush podcast: This is, I love , I like this one a lot because it, actually, it's one of the few designs I've seen that really infuses the facehugger and the xenomorph in a way that you kind of get a  50/50 mix of both

    Lagrange: Yeah, that was, that was really like the egg, we weren't like locked on bipedal creature or anything so we just wen'.. went for it, so, so this um all these one and this is another one, they are quick sketches

    ZBrush podcast: I like your shader too

    Lagrange: Yeah, that's a, yeah, that's just a tweak, going straight from a key shot

    ZBrush podcast: Okay

    Lagrange: The weirder, yeah. So it's actually funny because when we did those, erm we had a chat with the VFX supervisor, which er, he's called Charlie Henley, er, really nice guy, he used to work for MPC and now he's client side so he was the overall VFX supervisor, and er, having done those, he actually asked us to provide all the,  the digital sculpture and the prop department printed them and put them in that actual set.

    So this was one that was sitting in this set right here

    Lagrange: Exactly Yeah, exactly, part of the you know

     ZBrush podcast: I wish we had it here

    Lagrange: failed experiments, yeah, I just looked for it, I haven't but

    ZBrush podcast: That would be so cool,

    Lagrange: So, yeah, this one you can see it, like, like flipped on its back  
    ZBrush podcast: We'll queue it up in the podcast, we'll just find it on

    Lagrange: Yeah yeah yeah I'm sure we can find it. So that was erm. So that was really cool

    ZBrush podcast: So would you tell me about your proc... as far as when you're designing something like this, so you're using Z-Brush, and you are, you mentioned using Dynamesh and things, do you, for something like this I imagine maybe going to quick maybe going to quick Z-sphere blockouts

    Lagrange: Er.

    ZBrush podcast: Rough out, or did you just Dynamesh with simple shapes

    Lagrange: Yeah, I really pull out shapes from

    That's fantastic

    Lagrange: Yeah, like er, I, I really think like uh, uh, starting from a ball of clay, yeah, and uh, uh, it's, I mean it's so easy to do on uh, so quick to do with the Dynamesh , you know

    ZBrush podcast: Yeah, absolutely

    Lagrange:  Just take even the legs or whatever, you can take one, just pull it off, just put it somewhere, so fast

    ZBrush podcast: Break off a leg

    Lagrange: Yeah

    ZBrush podcast: And insert it somewhere else and remesh it together

    Lagrange: Yeah

    ZBrush podcast: Yes

    Lagrange: It's really straight forwards and that's, that's why for me, why Z-Brush is wonderful for that type of job you know, because you can go straight as well into like lighting scenarios, the balance of the object

    ZBrush podcast: The uh, on the forehead, you have some, some nice sort of, almost like a reliefs

    Lagrange: Yeah

    ZBrush podcast: Like a lot of just, do you just go in, do all this by hand, just no no stroke stepping

    Lagrange: I've

    ZBrush podcast: Or do you just like to do it all

    Lagrange: I think of those now, because it's a very quick, very quick to do, uh, and it doesn't really require to be like super accurate

    ZBrush podcast: Yeah

    Lagrange: So, you can just go, like carve into it, er, very quickly.

    ZBrush podcast: I love that, I truly do, I think that there's something, something special about, just a feeling, just doing it all by hand with one brush and

    Lagrange: Uh yeah

    ZBrush podcast: No getting into any technical

    Lagrange: Yeah

    Workflows or alphas or anything

    Lagrange: Mmhmm, I think um, for me, like the longest I can maintain that, ah, I I do it because it's just fresh and part of the pleasure as well, you know, sculpting it, so

    ZBrush podcast:Yeah

    Lagrange: It's the same when you start going into like you know, the white or black flesh, wrinkles and things like that you know, you just go over and work on your surface instead of trying to find a brush to do it for you

    ZBrush podcast:Yuh, this is a great piece

    Lagrange: Um, so those guys

      (Alien_ Covenant Concept Artist Leandre Lagrange - The ZBrush Podcast Episode 11 - )
Paradise Neomorph 17th June 2015

b) Facehugger/Xenomorph infusion

Lagrange's creature infused the face hugger and the 'xenomorph'. 
He tried to see how it would spread on the ground and occupy space like a spider, with higher legs and perhaps wider legs

Another one of these designs appeared to have pincers

  1.  Lagrange: I was just trying to see how it would spread on the ground and like the spi- the space it could occupy, you know, something like higher legs, lower, maybe wider
    ZBrush podcast: Something more elevated in the back for

    Lagrange: Yeah, so it's really like

    ZBrush podcast: More, more movement

    Lagrange: Yeah, so all those ones, same things, they're all kind enough based on the same thing, those ones, um, um

    ZBrush podcast: This one's interesting. It's almost more spider like. He has pincers

    Lagrange: Yeah.

    ZBrush podcast: I think he still has the mouth. (Alien_ Covenant Concept Artist Leandre Lagrange - The ZBrush Podcast Episode 11 - )

Paradise Neomorph 17th June 2015


As they did these sketchy creatures, they had a chat with Charlie Henley the VFX supervisor , he used to work for MPC and then moved onto the client side, so that he was overall VFX supervison.

He asked them to provide all the digital sculptures and so the prop department printed them out on 3D printers and put them in the actual set.

So these sketches became David the android's failed experiments on display in the lab

Lagrange pulled out out shapes on Dynamesh, which was easy for him to use, it was like starting from a ball of clay. He could take even the legs,  put one on, pull it off, and put it somewhere else before remeshing it together. It was all straiggt forwards, and Z-Brush was wonderful for that type of job because the sculptor could go straight into lighting scenarios and balance of the object

Paradise xenomorph 18th June 201

c) Crazy cartoon xenomorph with tail

Thursday, 18th June 2015

As his work bled into the following day, Legrange developed another crazy idea that was a sort of a Xenomorph with a tail perhaps inspired by the Alien Queen fetus from Alien 3. 

Perhaps the design seemed like something from a crazy cartoon, but it helped explore the idea of something with a body that for sure didn't look like a man in a suit. 

Lagrange had a go with the Xenomorph. Here was an attempt to make it resemble anything but a man in a suit, getting rid of all human structure while it was still to remain bipedal

  1. Lagrange: And then

    ZBrush podcast: Oh wow, this one's really interesting

    Lagrange: This was, same things, part of that crazy day when you can do anything you want, and this one was a take on the er the xenomorph as well which is er, really crazy, I guess

    ZBrush podcast: This is, this was one where you're, your goal, you're trying to get away from the possibility of it being a person in a suit

    Lagrange: Exactly

    ZBrush podcast: Kind of like deconstructing a lot of the, silhouette elements

    Lagrange: Yeah, exactly, going really really like, getting rid of all the human structure, I mean it's still bipedal but you know

    ZBrush podcast: Right

    Lagrange: You show that there's no guy in that suit

    ZBrush podcast: Yuh, I really like mot... just the soothing motion with the tale, this, there's so many great angles,

    Lagrange: Yeah, there is that, there is a, actually, was it on a poster, of maybe on Aliens, 'cause you see that tale.

    ZBrush podcast:The tale

    Lagrange: Full circle like

    ZBrush podcast: Yeah

    Lagrange: I don't know where I've seen it

    ZBrush podcast: I think you're right, I think it was Aliens

    Lagrange: But it looked awesome, I was like "We need to put it in"

    ZBrush podcast: Yeah, that's so cool

    Lagrange: I think actually the tale was an array, or something like that

    ZBrush podcast:I think we can do an array match, I like it
    Lagrange: Yeah, it started, with that one I started to be aware of it "Oh,  oh that's cool" 

    ZBrush podcast: In that case, an array gives you an ability to, especially if you want those, if you want those like those spikes to sort of angles in a direction

    Lagrange: Yeah

    ZBrush podcast:That would be a little bit more work to do manually going in and pulling them out, like you making them even

    Lagrange: Oh, you know, it's so good because once you've got what you need, just like, combine everything, then you can start again, you know, pulling them on

    ZBrush podcast: Matching it all together and remesh it

    Yeah, it's so good. That's another one , maybe a bit more detailed, already, the head reminds a bit more of a

    Lagrange: Yeah, this is getting a bit closer to the... the final xenomorph, but the body is a very interesting design, I like this a lot. The ribcage is still over here, the, it's almost as if comes to, it's coming to a point up here instead of connecting at the sternum , yeah, yeah, yeah

    Lagrange: Cool. And you know, I think you need to go there sometimes, you need to go a bit crazy and see how far you can go. and you know, sometimes maybe small bits of it can spark an idea, or be used, or you know

    Lagrange: absolutely, and you're getting revisions, you're kind of passing these off and getting revisions or were these just completed and and yeah, so ones, because we went like really crazy, yuh it was part of the first package, so we gather all that stuff and we push it er client side and then they just take everything in. react to it and then give us new directions

    (Alien_ Covenant Concept Artist Leandre Lagrange - The ZBrush Podcast Episode 11 - )

d) Alien in running motion

Wednesday 24th June 2015

Legrange worked on a much more typical alien in running motion, but thin enough to not resemble a human in a suit too much

Ridley was saying that they should keep the xenomorph design, because they didn't want to get rid of it, but to have it thinned down a bit.

"What about we maker her thinner and what would that look like?"

So they would go through the art director, they submitted all of their images and it would go through MPC to Charline Henley the FX Supervisor, and he would bring them to Ridley. They talked it over, Charlie would come to Ferren Domenech was the VFX supervisor for that group, they would talk it through and come back to the rest of the people in the department

In Pre-Production on films very early in the process, they tended to have access to the directors, but in terms of Ridley Scott, Lagrange crossed his path in the hallways once and that was about it, so it was rare to meet those sorts of directors

  1. Lagrange: And and this one, the new direction when Ridley was saying that well basically, obviously we keep the xenomorph design because, you know don't want to get rid of that
    ZBrush podcast: Of course

    Lagrange: But erm, just trying to have it, er , like thin it down a bit
    ZBrush podcast: Yeah, I can see where you kind of, kind of mixed the two at that point where you still have the rib cage as but a little bit more prominent, the waist and the muscles, it's kind of been stripped down

    Lagrange: Yeah, exactly, um, this was, those images are really just talking points, so in any case, that's not the final xenomorph, that's not what you see in the movie, it's really like a talking point, erm "what about we make her like thinner and how, what would that look like?", so we just do that very quickly, that's I think that's like, a day I think

    ZBrush podcast:So this, at this point, are you, you, are you talking with Ridley Scott, are you getting, at what point did he see all of these?

    Lagrange: So we , we go through art director, so we are just like submitting, submitting, (I'll bring that back) submitting all those images, then it goes through MPC to Charlie, 'cause at that point we are with Charlie Henley the FX supervisor, and he is bring them to Ridley and they talk it over, and then he comes back to us, so that's most of the time you go through, so on our side it was Ferran Domenech the VFX superviser, but then we had Charlie on this, they would just talk it through and then they come back to us. 
    ZBrush podcast:I see
    Lagrange: When we were in pre-production very early in the process, er, we tend to have access to the director but it really depends on, I'm sure, I mean, Ridley Scott is...

    ZBrush podcast:Did you have a chance to meet him

    Lagrange: I crossed his path in the hallway once but not while

    ZBrush podcast: Sorry

    Lagrange: Sorry. Yeah, it's very rare when we are actually with those guys (Alien_ Covenant Concept Artist Leandre Lagrange - The ZBrush Podcast Episode 11 - )

d) Abstract cartoon xenomorph

Saturday 28th June 2015
By this time, Legrange's exploration into this sort of an abstract cartoon like evolved into the upper part of a much more serious looking creature.

Paradise xenomorph 24th June 2015

Meanwhile at this point, Stephane Levallois continued sketching a variety of different life forms to be found on the mysterious planet.

1 comment:

  1. "Alien Covenant: MPC designs Neomorphs and Xenomorphs" was posted on 22nd August 2021