Behind the scenes of post-production
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Making a summer blockbuster movie with special effects and big name actors is like painting a picture: the result depends not only on the placement of images and the finite details, but the colours that go into it. That’s where Central, a Vancouver-based post-production facility, gets involved in films.
Central was part of last summer’s Elysium, and worked on the film’s colouring. Six members of the team discussed what went into the production at Vancity Theatre on November 14.
Andrea Chlebak, a colourist at Central, talked about working closely with director Neill Blomkamp, who had a clear vision of how he wanted the film, special effects, and colours to look: he wanted it to be “natural.” This was no easy task for a sci-fi movie involving robots and futuristic vehicles.
What the team settled on was a natural lighting for the film that would emphasize the details in a shot instead of using highlighted colours that would wash out some of the details in the visual effects. Michael Bay’s Transformers films are an example of highlighted colour-use, where the robots have an animated appearance and the finer details are missing.
The next challenge was finding the right colouring to use to distinguish the scenes on the beautiful Elysium space station designed for the wealthy elite and the grungy, polluted Earth where the workers lived.
Since the space station was filled with green grass and sapphire water, it was an obvious choice to give the scenes in Elysium a blue colouring to highlight the natural scenery and give the environment a pleasant glow.
However, in the brightly lit command room scenes, the blue colouring gave Delacourt (Jodie Foster) a cold appearance, which is how her character behaved.
For the Earth’s look of a dying planet, the team went with a brown and grey colouring that was partly created by the smog and dust in the dirty air. The scenes also featured hints of blue as a way to connect the Earth to Elysium.
To capture the appearance of heavy smog, the team studied photos of Beijing, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, and other polluted cities in order to replicate the look in the film.
Chris Davies, the post supervisor, spoke about the special effects involved in a shoot-out scene between Max (Matt Damon) and two droids. In the scene, Max shoots a droid in slow motion and the machine explodes into millions of tiny little pieces, each piece having to be animated and appear realistic as per the director’s request.
The team joked that five to six artists were locked in a dark room for six months to animate the scene, but this wasn’t far from the truth of how much effort went into the one scene.
For more behind the scenes information, check out Mark Salisbury’s book, Elysium: the Art of the Film.