Alien Resurrection: Swimming Aliens

(still collating)

leading from

 
 
 

 
a)  Swimming aliens

The alien's new talent revealed in the movie is its ability to swim.

Woodruff designed the equivalent of an alien wetsuit, which allowed him to perform underwater, and this would be used for key closeups.

There were a couple of shots where they needed to see the full alien, particularly a whole sequence underwater of the alien swimming

It also enable him to execute an important stunt, in which the alien yanks a member of the Betty crew Hillard in the water away from the other members, and pulls her to a watery death.

Here an alien had to swim for the first time in an alien movie

It was proposed to Jeunet that the legs should be triple-jointed, a bit like a frog.

When was plan to have CGI aliens firmly made, and when were Blue Sky brought in, because it would be the first time because of CGI that the legs would be seen, because usually they made it forbidden to shoot the legs when it was a man in a suit, because otherwise it would be difficult to forget that it's a man in a suit, or were Blue Sky brought in once the initial swimming tests failed

  1. Jean-Pierre Jeunet: They had to swim for the first time, and er, and I suppose, I remember they proposed me to, to put the legs in three parts, a bit like a frog, and er, because this time we could see the leg, it was the first time because because of CGI, the men in the suits usually had no more leg, it was forbidden to shoot it because it was a man in a suit. You... it's very difficult to shoot a man in a suit, to to forget it's a man you know, and you have to make just close up, very close... close up.(Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)  


b) Woodruff as a swimming aliens

b.i) Woodruff and the safety diver
The suit with its enormous head and heavy rubber made breathing under water a difficult proposition.

Woodruff constructed a suit to adapt to his new surroundings as best he could but it wasn't easy.

On land, he head was inside the neck of the suit and there was only about a quarter or even an eighth of an inch of foam over his face, so there was no place to hide any sort of breathing apparatus, such as a regulator, mouthpiece or tube.

In the end, they cut a slit in the throat area where he could put an external regulator in his mouth.

When he would go underwater, and be led into place while he had the regulator in his mouth.

He had divemaster (or safety diver) named Rod Francis who was positioned just out of frame.

When the cameras rolled, Woodruff would hand the regulator to or have it pulled out by divemaster  and hold his breath,

The moment that they yelled "Cut", Woodruff would put out his hand waiting for the regulator to be returned and the divemaster would place the regulator back in the slit and Woodruff would put it back in his mouth.

The water limited Woodruff's sight, which the suit blocked away even on land and he was essentially blind underwater, dependent on the safety diver for air, so it was difficult enough for him to perform underwater

They got into a rhythm, and Woodruff had to get to a point where he trusted the people who were there to support him, and if he thought about it more, his concern could have got in the way of the job.


b.ii) Woodruff's near calamity
Jeunet viewing the scene of submerged action via a video monitor, couldn't always see everything transpiring below the surface.

Wall all the cameramen, actors, aliens and safety divers were ready to shoot, a thumbs up is given to Erni Orsatti.

If anyone found themselves in trouble underwater, they were to indicate it with a slashing motion across the throat.

At one point, Woodruff lost his air regulator and gave the appropriate signal, but Jeunet could not see it on the monitor.

Perhaps it was only for a few seconds, but for Woodruff it seemed like an eternity

Fortunately a safety diver saw him and, as train, swam over with a regulator, although it was in the middle of a take.

It ruined the shot but saved Woodruff.

  1. Tom Woodruff: It was really weird environment underwater. I couldn't see and the sound was very limited. I'm sure I was without air for only a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity when I was down there. (The Making of Alien Resurrection)  
  2. A major challenge in filming the underwater creature shots was providing air and direction to the essentially blind suit performer. " My face was inside the neck of the alien, " commented Woodruff, " so there was no place to put any kind of eye wear that would allow me to see underwater. And there was no room for any kind of breathing apparatus because the neck was just an eighth of an inch thick across my face. All I had was a slit in the throat where I could put an external regulator in my mouth. I would go underwater and be led into place. Then, as the cameras rolled, I would take the regulator out of my mouth and hand it to Rod Francis, the divemaster, who was positioned just out of frame. The moment they yelled 'Cut!," I would put out my hand, Rod would place the regulator in it, and I would put it back into my mouth. We just got into a rhythm. I had to get to a point where I trusted the people who were there to support me. If I'd thought about it more, my concern could have gotten in the way of my job. It was difficult enough for me just to perform underwater - to move that big head or hold it steady - without also worrying about safety issues. "( Cinefex 73)
  3. Tom Woodruff: The way the suit works on land, my head is inside the neck and there was only about a quarter inch of foam over my face, so there is no place to hide any sort of breathing apparatus, like a regulator or mouthpiece or tube. So we ended up cutting a slit in the neck and I had a diver underwater with me and a regulator in my mouth. As the camera rolled, the diver pulled the regulator and I did the shot holding my breath. At the end of the shot, I waited for the regulator to be returned (The Making of Alien Resurrection) 
  4. The water limited Woodruff's sight, which the suit naturally curtailed even on land. He was, essentially, blind underwater, dependent on the safety divers for air. Jeunet viewing the submerged action via poolside video monitor, couldn't always see everything transpiring below the surface. When all the cameramen, actors, aliens and safety divers were ready to shoot, they will give a literal thumbs up to Ernie Orsatti . If something went awry, they indicated it with a slashing motion across the throat.  At one point, Woodruff lost his air regulator and gave the appropriate signal, one  that Jeunet couldn't see in the monitor. Fortunately one of the safety divers did and swam over with a regulator, as trained, albeit in the middle of the take. Obviously it ruined the shot but his actions saved Woodruff. (The Making of Alien Resurrection) 


c) Underwater stunt and unconvincing results

In one part of the underwater scene, when an alien grabs Betty crew member Hillard (Kim Flowers) by the ankle and hauls her backwards into darkness.

ADI also built a version of the alien suit that could be towed that had a tail that would swim like the iguanas and alligators, and perhaps it was used on one shot in the film.

To execute the scene, stunt coordinator Erni Orsatti hooked Woodruff up to a ratchet mechanism, (contributed by All Effects) whose cord was winched and held taut by the phalanx of grips, and to Flowers' ankle, allowing the two to be dragged backwards through about thirty feet of water.

Here they put a small bottle of air in the actual which would have given Tom five minutes, but he never felt that he was in enough danger to use it, especially with all the safety divers around

On cue, they hauled the cable back, zooming Woodruff and the alien's captive backward into the pool.

Despite their efforts neither Tom Woodruff, hampered by the restricting suit, nor the dummies appear to swim convincingly.

Woodruff spent quite a few days in his underwater suit, but he found that it was impossible to make that full body stuff look good on screen

However most of what was seen was a CGI  swimming alien that came to be made by Blue Sky, while only close up shots of men in alien suits worked

  1. Tom Woodruff: There are a couple of shots where you need to see the full alien, particularly a whole sequence underwater of the alien swimming. Even though I shot quite a few days in my underwater suit, it was just impossible to make that full body stuff look good. .(TCI, January 1998, p18)
  2.  Alec Gillis:  We built a , erm , er, a version that could be er, towed that had a er, a tail that would er, that would swim like that which was used I think may be in one place, but most of it you know was completely submerged under water, so most of it when you see the film is the CGI versions swimming under water. (Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)
  3. The suit, with its enormous head and heavy rubber, made breathing underwater a difficult proposition. Woodruff constructed a suit to adapt to his new surroundings as best he could but it wasn't easy. (The Making of Alien Resurrection)
  4. One of the new alien talents revealed in Alien Resurrection is it ability to swim. Woodruff designed the equivalent of the alien wetsuit, which allowed him to perform underwater, for key close-ups. It also enabled him to execute an important stunt, in which the alien yanks a member the Betty back into the water and pulls her to a watery death. Stunt coordinator Erni Orsatti hooked Woodruff up to a ratchet whose cord was winched and held taut by the phalanx of grips. On cue, they hauled the cable back, zooming Woodruff and his prisoner backward into the pool (The Making of Alien Resurrection)  
  5. In one underwater scene, an alien grabs Betty crew member Hillard (Kim Flowers) by the ankle and hauls her backwards into darkness. To execute the scene,Woodruff was secured via cable to a ratchet mechanism - contributed by All Effects - and then to Flowers' ankle, allowing the two to be dragged backwards through about thirty feet of water. "I was locked off in the cable rig and I couldn't get out of it quickly, " recalled Woodruff, "so we put a small bottle of air inside the suit, which would have given me five minutes, if I needed it - but I never felt in danger. Had things gotten bad, there were enough divers that somebody would have been there to help. " (Cinefex 73, p109-110) 
     

d) Problems with aliens under water

Complicating matters for the Blue Sky team were the disappointing results of underwater photography involving the ADI alien suit and dummies. 

Neither Tom Woodruff, hampered by the restricting suit, nor the dummies appear to swim convincingly. 

In addition, the foam latex creature, so vibrant on stage, did not look pleasing in the watery environment. 

What Erik Henry observed was that the alien had many spectacular highlights when shot on stage, and those lent to its eerie and beautiful look, but when they got it under water, all of those highlights disappeared and it tended to look dull. 

The details suddenly seemed very sculptural and the colors washed out, and water just wasn't very flattering to the character.

The unsatisfactory appearance of the alien underwater presented the CG team with a dilemma in that their creature had to look much better than the live-action figure, but not so much better that it would fail to match . 

In the end, live action footage for the sequence served principally as reference for Blue Sky, with only a few underwater closeups of Woodruff remaining in the final cut.
  1. Complicating matters for the Blue Sky team were the disappointing results of underwater photography involving the ADI alien suit and dummies. Neither Tom Woodruff, hampered by the restricting suit, nor the dummies appear to swim convincingly. In addition, the foam latex creature, so vibrant on stage, did not look pleasing in the watery environment. "The alien had many spectacular  highlights when shot on stage, and those lent to its eerie and beautiful look," Erik Henry observed. 'But when we got it under water, all of those highlights disappeared and it tended to look dull. The details suddenly seemed very sculptural and the colors washed out. Water just wasn't very flattering to the character. " The unsatisfactory appearance of the alien underwater presented the CG team with a dilemma in that their creature had to look much better than the live-action figure, but not so much better that it would fail to match . In the end, live action footage for the sequence served principally as reference for Blue Sky, with only a few underwater closeups of Woodruff remaining in the final cut. (Cinefex 73)

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