Alien Resurrection: Blue Sky Studios takes the challenge








a) Decision to use CGI 

There were a couple of shots where it was necessary to see the full alien, particularly a whole sequence underwater of the alien swimming. 

Even though Woodruff shot a few days of the scene in his underwater suit,  it was impossible to make the full body suit scenes look good, so CGI would have to be used instead. 

For scenes in which the man-in-a-suit approach was unfeasible, computer-generated aliens were employed. These CG images - which had to intercut perfectly with footage of the ADI suit would reveal the aliens in full view, running or swimming with inhuman speed.

Kerry Shea who was starting her career in the movie industry served as Visual Effects Coordinator on Alien Resurrection, and was involved when they gave several different 'vendors' the Alien Resurrection bible which was a big book of storyboards that described each visual effects shot that they were looking for.



  1. Kerry Shea explained how Blue Sky Studios, the New York-based animation house, became involved in the project: "We gave several different vendors our bible, our big book of storyboards that describes each visual effects shot that we were looking for. What impressed us about Blue Sky was their work on JOE'S APARTMENT. We were looking for alien effects that were sort of insect-like, and they had done such a terrific job on the cockroaches in that film." http://www.vfxhq.com/1997/alien4-how7.html
  2. Designed by Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger, the alien with its vertebrated tail, stove-piped back and slimy penile head is one of modern cinema's most recognized monstrosities. Despite its humble man-in-a-suit origins, the alien is one of the most detailed extraterrestrials ever designed a fun factoid, unless of course you're trying to model the creature via computer graphics. On Alien Resurrection, that unenviable task fell to Blue Sky Studios, a New York-based effects house best known for a series of award-winning commercials and for creating hordes of cavorting cockroaches for the MTV film Joe's Apartment.    (http://www.theasc.com/magazine/nov97/reanimate/pg1.htm)
  3. Christopher Scollard has been producing effects for Blue Sky for over two years. Experienced in various aspects of film making, Scollard is the digital effects producer and supervisor of Blue Sky's Alien Resurrection team. Impressed by their showreel and Joe's Apartment, Fox's visual effects producer contracted the studio to build the CG characters for Alien Resurrection. "I don't think it was the fact that we did Joe's Apartment that got us the contract, " says Scollard, "The alien is nothing like a cockroach... I think our interpretation of the character, along with the pressure to create something that was photo realistic, was what impressed Fox. " (Starburst#234, p44)
  4. For scenes in which the man-in-a-suit approach was unfeasible, computer-generated aliens were employed. These CG images - which had to intercut perfectly with footage of the ADI suit would reveal the aliens in full view, running or swimming with inhuman speed.  (Cinefex 73, p110)
      

b) Choosing Blue Sky 

The task of creating the CGI alien fell to Blue Sky Studios, a New York-based effects house best know for a series of award-winning commercials and for creating hordes of cockroaches for the MTV film "Joe's Apartment", which featured such things as a music video style scene with the cockroaches singing and dancing. 

Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his associates (including thevisual effects supervisors Pitof and Erik Henry): felt confident about working with them although because of this little film.

The alien series had never had an actual computer generated alien before so this was going to be new, and Blue Sky had the experience that they wanted, because film production was alien effects that were near enough insect like, and they thought that Blue Sky had done such a terrific job on the cockroaches in that film

However Christopher Scollard, the digital effects producer and supervisor Blue Sky's Alien Resurrection team was unaware of this interest in Joe's Apartment that got the company the contract

He had decided that the alien was nothing like a cockroach.

But he thought that it was Blue-Sky's work on the the alien that got them the contract was their own interpretation of the alien beast along with the pressure to create something that was photorealistic, and this impressed Fox.

They were assigned the slate of twenty shots.

The company began work on a project in October 1996, conceptualizing shots in determining how best to accomplish them. . 


  1. Pitof (visual effects supervisor: For the CG, we select er, Blue Sky studio in New York because they did, erm, this movie called Joe's Apartment (Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)
  2. Pitof (visual effects supervisor:Which was really well animated and the xxxx was really good and we were really impressed by by the work on this movie so, we, we were really happy to work with them for that. (Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary) 
  3. Erik Henry (visual effects supervisor): But when it comes to things like, ah, the alien, we have to go out, we have to get someone who's really good, um, who has 3D experience in, in creating characters, um, uh, you know, the alien sequence series had never had a computer generated alien so this was going to be new (Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)
  4. Erik Henry (visual effects supervisor): It featured a lot of cockroaches, and er, the character animation that they got into some of those cockroaches is what impressed us the most. (Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)


Using Sprint Drums
A man who might be Erik Henry stares at the computer screen display, and he watches a CGI alien beast clinging to a ladder swinging its tail, and someone else in the lower left screen in the computer monitor's screen is saying "on the screen has no texture maps, it almost looks like a window dummy performing on the action that we'd like the alien to perform"(Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)
The CG Alien without the texture skin on it

Blue Sky Studios - the New York digital house responsible for the dancing cockroaches in Joe's Apartment - was assigned the slate of 20 shots. 

The company began work on a project in October 1996, conceptualizing shots in determining how best to accomplish them. Travelling to the west coast whenever plate photography involving their aliens was scheduled, members of the Blue Sky team observed the choreography of the shots, collected camera data, took reference photographs and discuss lighting considerations.


c) Distance crossed with the Drums network

The only problem with Blue Sky, was their distance.

They were not a Los Angeles based company, but instead was in New York.

They would travel to the west coast whenever plate photography involving their aliens was scheduled, and members of the Blue Sky team observed the choreography of the shots, collected camera data, took reference photographs and discuss lighting considerations

Still, Jeunet and his team had to work out how to talk to them on a regular basis, because Blue Sky would need constant feedback.

It was difficult enough to get the director's time in the first place and meanwhile Jean-Pierre Jeunet was still learning England

Not only was it a just a matter of creating a believable image, it was a matter of making sure they were on the right track of creating what the director wanted, while battling all of these geographic constraints, communication constraints and time constraints.

They turned to using Sprint Drums which were popular at the time for networking on the internet

A Drums network consists of a computer work station equipped with such capabilities as videoconferencing, a shared whiteboard, a shared media player for simultaneous viewing, annotation tools and an online directory of stock footage from the Energy Film Library.

At the time, it was a very popular tool in the film industry and here it was a way for Jeunet's team to have a camera on their end where they could see the animation, make comments on them, scroll on them right into the screen and on the other end Blue Sky would be able to see what  they were writing.

With this video teleconferencing facilitated face-to-face meetings between Blue Sky principals in New York and the Los Angeles production staff , with materials exchanged via fax the Internet or FedEx. In addition, a high-speed data line into the Churchill Studios facility permitted animation to be blues sent and viewed quickly on an Indigo workstation. 

They might want to tell them things such as you could improve that, "see how he moves like this"... "take this path"... "would be better" ... "see if that looks"... and so on.

If needed, Blue Sky personnel lead by a digital effexts producer Christopher Scollard could be on set the morning following a call 

The whole creation of the 3D aliens became a very difficult task in that respect, and so everyone in the production were very proud Blue Sky's work on this film. 

By February, all sixteen plates what are the dates for alien shots had been filmed and a May delivery date was established for Blue Sky, Generous by the standards of television commercial production - in which the studio had to give had considerable experience - the schedule gave digital artists time to both experiment and finish the animation.  


  1. Erik Henry: They certainly had the talent and except for their distance, which we had to figure out what we were going to do with erm, talking to them on a regular basis. Except for the distance, everything seemed perfect, and um, ultimately what we did to, to fix that one problem was, there was something called sprint drums at the time which is archaic now, but it was, it was a way to have camera on our end and a computer screen where we could see their animations, make comments on them, you know, scroll on them right right onto the screen and er, they would be able to see what we're writing. You know, we would say, well on this area, you know, you could improve that and see how he moves like this, take this path would be better, see if that looks (Alien Legacy: "Virtual Aliens- Computer generated imagery" documentary)
  2. A Drums network consists of a computer work station equipped with such capabilities as videoconferencing, a shared whiteboard, a shared media player for simultaneous viewing, annotation tools and an online directory of stock footage from the Energy Film Library.  https://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/stories/1998/06/08/focus6.html
  3. 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)
  4. Kerry Shea: "In order for them to create their work, they needed constant feedback. It's so difficult to get the director's time in the first place, but in our case, the director learned English for the first time, during ALIEN's production. The whole creation of the 3D aliens I think was a very difficult task in that respect, and that's why everyone is so proud of Blue Sky's work on this film. Not only was it a just a matter of creating a believable image, it was a matter of making sure they were on the right track of creating what the director wanted, while battling all of these geographic constraints, communication constraints and time contstraints. (http://www.vfxhq.com/1997/alien4-how8.html
  5. Blue Sky Studios - the New York digital house responsible for the dancing cockroaches in Joe's Apartment - was assigned the slate of 20 shots. The company began work on a project in October 1996, conceptualizing shots in determining how best to accomplish them. Travelling to the west coast whenever plate photography involving their aliens was scheduled, members of the Blue Sky team observed the choreography of the shots, collected camera data, took reference photographs and discuss lighting considerations. (Cinefex 73, p110)
  6. By February, all sixteen plates what are the dates for alien shots had been filmed and a May delivery date was established for Blue Sky, Generous by the standards of television commercial production - in which the studio had to give had considerable experience - the schedule gave digital artists time to both experiment and finish the animation.  Video teleconferencing facilitated face-to-face meetings between Blue Sky principals in New York and the Los Angeles production staff , with materials exchanged via fax the Internet or FedEx. In addition, a high-speed data line into the Churchill Studios facility permitted animation to be blues sent and viewed quickly on an Indigo workstation. If needed, Blue Sky personnel lead by a digital effexts producer Christopher Scollarde could be on set the morning following a call (Cinefex 73, p110)
     

2 comments:

  1. "Alien Resurrection: Alien beast CGI:Blue Sky Studios takes the challenge" was posted on April 19th 2020, and development continued

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  2. I took "Alien beast CGI" out of the title

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