Alien Covenant: The xenomorph - a stripped-down killing machine: Trying to work out what Ridley wanted

 leading from

 - a stripped-down killing machine

a) Turmoil in finding the design
Conor took note of what Neal Scanlan had done in the past and it didn't didn't have much luck in deciphering what sort of alien beast Ridley wanted during the production of Prometheus. 
Here he found that there was pressure from all the people that were working with his group, they all had their different agendas which made the situation quite stressful. 

When it began to go around the workshp, people started to impose their agendas onto it and this resulted in fights. 
Adam O'Neill even told him about how he found that his own stomach was knotting up

b) Taking action 
Conor and his team which also included Colin Shulver, Bradley Simmons, Dominic Hailstone set themselves the task of trying to figure out what Ridley wanted. 

The way it was talked about later, looked as if Ridley didn't have a clue

They reviewed existing designs and Ridley told them what he liked and did not. 
This gave them a general direction in which to go. 

c) Fans of the different films
In the workship, Conor took note of how different artists wanted to see the alien beast in different ways according to who grew up with which film.
There were those who grew up on the first Alien who wanted to see it that way, those who grew up on Jim Cameron's Aliens and wanted to see it that way, and then it got to those who grew up on Alien vs Predator. 

d) Finding a direction 
They would all have their own opinions and Ridley showed that he had his own
Some of them were rather agitated because they wanted to create an alien with pipes and tubes all over the body but they were returning to Giger's Necronom IV since Ridley kept referencing it.
This one didn't have so much of the mechanical elements obvious to them. 
Conor's looked at Giger's monster in terms of pipes and wires and with that he felt it was a stylised unworldly unreal thing. 

What he wanted for the new beast was to have something that had more tubes and organic veins instead, grounding it near enough in what he knew about biological reality .

  1. L'Ecran fantastique: Par quoi avez-vous commencé?
    What did you start with?

    Conor O'Sullivan: Par one sort d'état des lieux de tous les designs qu'il fallait créer au plus vite pour avancer. Il y avait non seulement une nouvel version du Xenomorph, le monstre classique d'Alien, mais aussi du Neomorph qui devait ressembler un peu au Deacon que l'on voit émerger du corpse de l'ingénieur à la fin de Prometheus, sans parle de beaucoup d'autres effets. C'était un énorme travail pour notre équipe, qui représentait un budget de plusieurs millions de dollars. Nous avons donc entamé le travail de design sur les chapeaux de roues, dans une ambiance de panique, car il fallait que ces concepts réussissent à convaincre Ridley, ce qui n'est pas une mince affaire!

    By one sort of state of the place of all the designs that had to be created as quickly as possible to advance. There was not only a new version of Xenomorph, Alien's classic monster, but also of the Neomorph, which looked a bit like the Deacon that emerges from the engineer's corpse at the end of Prometheus, without talking about Many other effects. It was a tremendous amount of work for our team, which was a multi-million dollar budget. So we started the design work on the ground running, because these concepts had to convince Ridley, which is no small matter!
    (L'Ecran fantastique)
  2. Il y avait des vues d'écorchés en cire, des images d'oisseux venant de naître, etc.
    Ridley also selected images of Italian and French anatomical figures made in the 18th century for use in medical education. There were stained wax views, images of newborn birds, and so on. (L'Ecran fantastique) 
  3. Conor O'Sullivan: It became our departments job to design the creatures - supervised by Ridley - as well as to cover any practical model effects that were needed for film. We also provided reference heads of the designs of the creatures, which were filmed in the correct scenes to give the VSFX department useful lighting and texture references of the creature in situ. When I was first employed on the film, about 20 or 30 different concepts of the adult Xenomorph had already been commissioned but Ridley did not appear to be happy with any of them. However there was one particular  piece of  Giger artwork that he kept referring to  as well as an anatomical waxwork from the Italian medical museum in Florence. 
  4. The Giger piece was the famous Necronom IV and the waxwork was a male figure from La Specola Anatomical Collection - a strangely elongated form, smooth and sinewy . (Alien Covenant artbook)
  5. Conor O'Sullivan: [Art director] Adam O'Neill​ was saying that when he worked on it, he could almost feel his stomach knotting up. (
  6. Den of Geek: On the e, erm Master Class creatures feature, you said the alien carried a lot of baggage which is pretty impressive for a stowaway, um, but er, how, how did you tackle the pressure of doing something new with such an iconic creature
    Conor O'Sullivan: It was quite a battle to try to understand, adapting what it was that Ridley was looking for
    Den of Geek:
    Hmm (Den of Geek Interview at Madame Tussauds)  
  7. Interviewer: Right , so with a creature like that, something that’s obviously existed before and you’re not designing from nothing

    Conor: Yes

    Interviewer:Do you look at the old films


    Interviewer: Or Do you try and do you try and access the original design?

    Conor: Well, it is Imagine, everybody in the workshop, something like that, that is, is, the , that is a unique experience really. It depends how old you are, so you got certain people that were old enough who saw, who grew up on the initial film , the first one, so they want to see it that way, You got people who grew up on Aliens, the Cameron one, and they want to see it that way and then you got somebody who grew up on Alien Vs Predator and they all had their own opinion, but Ridley had his own opinion (Reel Feedback podcast
  8. Conor O'Sullivan: Nous nous sommes mis à quatre pour concevoir ce nouveau xénomorphe; Colin Shulver, Bradley Simms, Dominic Hailstone et moi-même. La première étape a consisté à essayer d comprendre ce que Ridley voulait. Nous avons par exemple passé en revue les designs existants et il nous a dit ce qu'il aimait ou pas. Ça nous a donné une direction générale dan lequel aller. Nous avons commencé par travailler sur papier, puis dans zBrush, ensuite sous forme de prototype miniature, et enfin, en sculpture taille réelle. Le look a été finalisé par Colin. On associe tellement le xénomorphe à cette école de design qu'il s'est avéré très compliqué d l'oublier. Les artistes intégraient du bioméchanique presque sans s'en rendre compte! [Rires] (SFX May/June 2017)

    Conor O'Sullivan: We have set ourselves four to conceive this new xenomorph; Colin Shulver, Bradley Simms, Dominic Hailstone and myself. The first step was to try and figure out what Ridley wanted. For example, we reviewed the existing designs and he told us what he liked or not. It gave us a general direction in which to go. We started by working on paper, then in zBrush, then as a miniature prototype, and finally, in real size sculpture. The look was finalized by Colin. We associate xenomorph so much with this school of design that it proved very complicated to forget it. Artists integrated biomechanics almost without realizing it! [Laughs]

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  1. "Alien Covenant: The xenomorph - a stripped-down killing machine: Trying to work out what Ridley wanted" was posted on July 31st 2021