Alien Covenant: The xenomorph - a stripped-down killing machine: Men in alien suits

leading from 
 - a stripped-down killing machine


Bunraku type suit




a) Steering towards men in suits

By January 2016, Ridley Scott had steered away from using a biomechanical alien and by then he wanted to use film creatures played by actors wearing costumes. 

This would mean that the camera men could set up with the stand-in man in a suit, and Ridley could frame on it, he could do his first pass directing the action and block it out. 

They could then discuss whether this creature needed to move, fast, so that meant the actors and film makers would have to just imagine that action happening, or they would bring in the stunt man because he could do the moves, whereas the man in te suit could not

For the suits, they would require four actors very thin, two very tall large ones to play two Xenomorphs and two to play Neomorphs. In the end both the Xenomorphs are played by one man.

Conor, following the reduction in biomechanic elements, felt that what he was doing was what Ridley always wanted as if he didn't want any mechanical aspects to any of the alien creatures in the film that they made, to make them completely organic. 

He thought that if one looks at the biomechanical elements in Giger's work, it looked beautiful, but in reality it would have been made by some other creature, 

In this Alien story, the alien is almost naturally occurring through the basic fundamental physics of the body and their DNA.

They had made two versions of the body. 

One was a puppeteered Bunraku type suit and the other was an actual suit.

To make them,  Conor O'Sullivan and Colin Shulver refined xenomorph designs using Adobe Photoshop and Pixologic ZBrush. 

Bradicy Simons sculpted the head from clay. while Adam Johansen shared sculpting duties for the alien’s body and limbs with Dominic Hailstone. 

An aluminum frame supported a fiberglass head, which featured a mechanical jaw and fextble silicone tips. 

The team cast the limbs in foam latex and built up the external ribcage from 30-printed bones and urethane casts, with flexible neoprene sections created by head fabricator Maria Fowler



Odd Studios: "Alien: Covenant. The Xenomorph.
One of the many fittings with Andrew Crawford for the 

full scale (9ft) xeno suit.  Adam Johansen, Marea Fowler 
& Greg McKee. Creature effects by Odd Creatures. "
(https://www.facebook.com/oddstudiopl/ December 27, 2017)

b) Bunraku type suit:  

The Bunraku type suit worn by Andrew Crawford who was a dancer about 6'4" built so that parts of his body were exposed. 

His face and eyes were looking out of the ribcage with steel bracing holding the weight of the head and so the head comes in and gotes straight into the backbone so that he can support the weight of the head from the waist. 

On top of that was a huge neck/head extensions which would be all animatronic. 

He operated the arms, which are painfully thin, externally using rods, and he was also on carbon fibre blades, so, standing he was about nine foot, but the blades made it difficult to use the puppet on uneven ground , so it was impractical in a lot of locations.

 

Assembling the Bunraku puppet

 

Assembling the Bunraku puppet


Assembling the Bunraku puppet



He had basic animatronic movements, overseen by head mech Greg McKee, including the mouth and head. 

Head fabricator Marea Fowler did a fantastic job overseeing the fabrication with the help of Aline Joyce, Shannon Riggs and Elisa Heimann on this and the other xeno and neo suits.

When Adam Johansen saw the first test, he thought that it didn't look like a man in a suit, because the proportions and the way it was moving were all wrong, looking like nothing he had ever seen before.

 

Ridley and his checking the alien Bunraku puppet as it stands before the green screen, from Adam Savage's Tested - The Creature and Special Effects of Alien: Covenant! - Youtub


Ridley and his checking the alien Bunraku puppet as it stands before the green screen, from Adam Savage's Tested - The Creature and Special Effects of Alien: Covenant! - Youtube


Ridley and his checking the alien Bunraku puppet as it stands before the green screen, from Adam Savage's Tested - The Creature and Special Effects of Alien: Covenant! - Youtub

Ridley and his checking the alien Bunraku puppet as it stands before the green screen, from Adam Savage's Tested - The Creature and Special Effects of Alien: Covenant! - Youtub


c) Man in actual suit

As an alternative, the creature team create a more conventional foam-latex suit worn by Goran D. Kleut

Ridley actually preferred the actual suit due to its practicality although it was small and looked more like a man in a suit, but worn by Goran D. Kleut.

The alien suit worn by Goran D Kleut
 

 

Odd Studios: Happy Alien day everyone!! To celebrate,  
we’ll be posting some never beforeseen pics from Alien: 
Covenant 👽💀 This pic taken during a fitting of our suit 
version of the Xenomorph, played by Goran D. Kleut. 
(source https://www.facebook.com/oddstudiopl/, 26th April 209)

 

Odd Studios: Happy Alien day everyone!! To celebrate, we’ll be posting some never before seen pics from Alien: Covenant 👽💀 Here’s an on set pic of our Covenant Xenomorph suit. (https://www.facebook.com/oddstudiopl/ 23rd April 2019


Odd Studios: Happy Alien day everyone!! To celebrate, we’ll be posting some never before seen pics from Alien: Covenant 👽💀 Here’s another on set pic of our Covenant Xenomorph suit, played by Goran D. Kleut. https://www.facebook.com/oddstudiopl/ 23rd April 2019
 


Goran D Kleut in an alien suit

 

"Alien: Covenant. One of the Xenomorph suit versions, this one played by Goran D Kleut. Adam Johansen making sure the Alien doesn't die too soon.
Creature effects by Odd Creatures. Odd Studio and Creatures Inc.
#aliencovenant #aliens #xenomorph #scifihorror #oddcreatures #oddstudio #oddbod #creaturesinc #creaturefx #creaturesuit #practicaleffects" (source: https://www.facebook.com/oddstudiopl/photos/a.221830154631033/907676322713076)

 

d) Replaced by cgi
While the creature was shot with physical special effects, they would be replaced, and Conor was content to go with this since he knew this would happen from the start and it would be better for the people in the CGI department if they had something physically real to copy. 

Conor saw it as an opportunity for everyone to table about it. The CGI people and the creature department were all coming together to comment saying such things as "that doesn't work, that, works, this doesn't work, let's change this"
 
It wasn't just from a physical point of view but a visual point of view as well. 

But the time they left the film production, the CGI people are there with their supervisor Charlie Henley who is the head of the visual effects department
 
Conor and Ridley would hand all the 3D files to to them and they will essentially work it over the real effects caught on the camera. 
 
What turned up on the screen in Conor's view what essentially what the creature department had designed
 

  1. Conor O'Sullivan:  Ridley preferred the actual suit due to its practicality though it was smaller and looked more like a man in a suit. The puppeteered suit was large, over 8ft tall with the actor using carbon fibre raisers to achieve the height. The raisers made it difficult to use on uneven ground so it was impractical in a lot of locations.  We also made an animatronic version for closeup work. (Alien Covenant artbook)
    Conor O'Sullivan: This is what Ridley always wanted, I think, If you think about it, the biomechanical stuff from Giger looks beautiful in Giger's paintings, but their relation to reality would have had to have been made by some creatures. The storyline of [Alien: Covenant] is that these [creatures] are naturally occurring — well, almost naturally occurring — through the basic fundamental physics of the body and their DNA. (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/alien-covenant-alien-types-xenomorph-continues-horrify-audiences-1004459 May 18th 2017) 
  2. Adam Johansen: During the shoot, the scariest white-knuckle kind of shots involved Andrew Crawford running in the full scale suit. There’s a really long platform that the Xenomorph is seen running down amongst all the dead engineers. Andrew, who is a dancer actually, is about 6” 4’, slim build with a fantastic sense of movement. He’d never done anything like this before, and here he is in this suit with very limited vision, weight restrictions on his head, on these carbon fiber blades, running down an angle. So I’d be there right before the shot holding him. And he’s got one of our hero heads on the top of his own head. So he runs down this platform onto gravel, like big rocky gravel, and it was scary! The whole crew were holding their breath during the takes. I was very concerned about Andrew and concerned about the suit. But he did it, he pulled it off.
    (https://vfxblog.com/2017/06/09/practical-creature-effects-alien-covenant/)
  3. Adam Johansen: One of the suits we produced, which was worn by Andrew Crawford, was a Bunraku style puppet/suit combo. It was built so that parts of Andrew’s body were exposed. His face and his eyes are looking out of the ribcage and on top of that was a huge neck/head extension, which is all animatronic. He operated the arms, which are painfully thin, externally, and he was also on stilts. So, standing he was about nine foot. He had basic animatronic movements, overseen by head mech Greg McKee, including the mouth and head. Head fabricator Marea Fowler did a fantastic job overseeing the fabrication with the help of Aline Joyce, Shannon Riggs and Elisa Heimann on this and the other xeno and neo suits.  (https://vfxblog.com/2017/06/09/practical-creature-effects-alien-covenant/)
  4. Conor: So, but, the reason I think he made a, you know, makes us do it, which he doesn't vocalise to the producers or anybody on purpose I'm sure because they don't want to spend the money, is that it creates and opportunity for everybody to talk about it on, all the people, all the right people, the CG guys, us, we're all standing going "that doesn't work, that, works, this doesn't work, let's change this," you know, not from just a physical point of view, from a visual kind of point of view,.So, by the time we leave the film production, the CG guys are there, the cg supervisors, Charley Henley is there, he's seen it all, he's got so much reference he doesn't know what to do with it, and he knows ex..., he knows now, 'cause the process we've been through altogether has led to a sort of design...  (Reel Feedback podcast https://shows.acast.com/reel-feedback/episodes/605f3602db73271e7558bbd9
  5. Conor O'Sullivan(?):  Bref, vers le fin janvier 2016, nous avons compris que Ridley n'avait pas envie de formes biomechaniques, et c'est au même moment qu'il a clairement indiqué qu'il a clairement indiqué qu'il souhaitait filmer des créatures jouées par des acteurs portant des costumes.Nous allions devoir réaliser quatre créatures différentes - deux aliens et deux neomorphs - et comme nous nous étions déjà installés en Australie, cela signifiait qu'il allait falloir trouver illico presto quatre acteurs très minces pour les jouer. Dont deux très grands pour jouer les xenomorphs. En fin de compte nous avon pu utiliser le même acteur pour jouer les deux aliens.
    In short, towards the end of January 2016, we realized that Ridley did not want biomechanical forms, and it was at the same time that he clearly indicated that he wanted to film creatures played by Actors wearing costumes. We would have to realize four different creatures - two aliens and two neomorphs - and as we had already settled in Australia, it meant that we would have to find "hey presto" (?) four players very thin to play them. Including two very large ones to play xenomorphs. In the end we could use the same actor to play the two aliens. (L'Ecran fantastique) 
  6.  The xenomorph design is too spindley to work with as a conventional suit. The creature team therefore conceived a hybrid approach inspired by Japanese bunraku puppets. Elevated on carbon fibre blades, creature performer Andrew Crawford wore a partial Xenomorph costume and used rods to manipulate the alien's arms. (Cinefex #153)
  7. Adam Johansen: Andrew's head was in the rib cage. The xenomorph legs set on the outside of his legs, and the xenomorph's feet were down at the bottom of the stilts. I remember the first test - it didn't look like a guy in a suit, because the proportions and the way it was moving we're all wrong. It looked like nothing I'd ever seen before. (Cinefex #153)
  8. Conor O'Sullivan and Colin Shulver refined xenomorph designs using Adobe Photoshop and Pixologic ZBrush. Bradicy Simons sculpted the head from clay. while Adam Johansen shared sculpting duties for the alien’s body and limbs with Dominic Hailstone. An aluminum frame supported a fiberglass head, which featured a mechanical jaw and fextble silicone tips. The
    team cast the limbs in foam latex and built up the external ribcage from 30-printed bones and urethane Casts. with flexible neoprene sections created by headfabricator Maria Fowler.
    (Cinefex #153)
  9. Effective though the bunraku puppet was for wide shots, it proved too big to operate in some of the more confined sets. As an alternative, the creature team created a more conventional foam-latea suit wom by Goran D. Kleut.(Cinefex #153)
  10. Conor O'Sullivan: I really started experimenting with 3D printing on this film. We scanned Bradley’s sculpt, broke lt down In Zbrush and produced object files for printing. We ended up molding the prints because of the weight issue, but we used whatever we could. The teeth were all 3D-printed. and then we had those chromed.(Cinefex #153)
  11. All versions of the xenomorph featured translucent head carapaces manufactured from surfboard Laminating resin by mold department head Gordon Holbrook. The rigors of shooting caused endless breakages. (Cinefex #153)
  12. Conor O'Sullivan: We would get through one carapace every day or two. We Just accepted that they got busted and replaced them rather than trying to makean indestructible one. (Cinefex #153)
  13. In paraliel with the creature department, MPC asset supervisor Dan Zelcs oversaw the development of a digital xenomorph. Artists integrated scans of the practial aliens with ever-evotving ZBrush models, with CG supervisors Manuel Mantero and Julien Bolbach ensuring the rendered creature stood up to close scrutiny. (Cinefex #153)
  14. Ferran Domenech: It was an artistic evolutionary process, It started with the model on set, and then we took it further. It took half the show before we had the asset. (Cinefex #153)
  15. Most shots of the xenomorph in action featured the CG alien. MPC animation supervisors Alexandre Ronco and Phillip Mosris gifted the xenomorph with superhuman suppleness, combined with a tendency to attack with unnatural, explosive force. (Cinefex #153)
  16. Charles Henley: Our first step was to allow the camera guys to set-up with the stand-in man in a suit, Ridley could frame on it, he could do his first pass directing the action and block it out. Then we would discuss whether actually this creature needed to move faster, so that meant the actors and filmmakers would have to just imagine that action happening, or we’d bring in the stunt guy because he could do the moves, whereas the guy in the suit couldn’t. (https://www.cartoonbrew.com ‘Alien: Covenant’: How On-set Suit Performances, Mo-cap, And VFX Each Played A Role In Production )
  17. Adam Savage: The actors were wore a complete covering body suit?

    Marea Fowler:
    No, he's using it as a puppeteer which is there is a whole cage which is ribs which is over him, it has all steel bracing, steel and aluminium bracing that holds the weight of the head so that the head comes in and goes straight on to the backbone

    Adam Savage:
    That's very nice for him

    Marea Fowler:
    That's very nice for him because it means he can take it around the waist

1 comment:

  1. "Alien Covenant: The xenomorph - a stripped-down killing machine: Men in alien suits" was posted on July 31st July 2021

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