SANTA MONICA, CA — Visual effects facility Luma Pictures can count itself as a participant in the battle for the future of humanity, after adding holographic effects work to 20th Century Fox and Scott Free Productions' Prometheus.
The impact of Luma's work in Prometheus comes when the crew is in their ship, interacting with and passing through holographic imagery, which floats in mid-air as well as being visualized in handheld devices.
"For scenes in which the actor was partially inside the volume of the hologram, we were faced with creating detailed holdout geometry and matchmoves of the actors, so they would integrate properly within the CG fluid," said Vincent Cirelli, VFX supervisor. "To create the look of the distortion field for this hologram shot, we used FumeFX for Maya, which we recently worked with Sitni Sati to implement," added Richard Sutherland, CG supervisor. "Prometheus was the perfect test-bed for this new fluid-based tool."
Working on Prometheus gave Luma's artists and supervisors a chance to interact with a genre-redefining cinematic style, created by Ridley Scott in the original Alien, and seen throughout his films.
"When VFX Producer Allen Maris and 20th Century Fox provided us the opportunity to contribute to Prometheus, it absolutely sparked excitement among our crew," said Steven Swanson, senior VFX producer. "Ridley's films have inspired many a career at Luma." Payam Shohadai, executive VFX supervisor and Luma co-founder, added, "Even to this day, the 'don't show everything' style of Alien is referenced as a benchmark for unfolding sci-fi narratives. The Alien films would likely have been conceived very differently with today's technology."
Luma also developed proprietary tools to handle certain challenges that arose due to the on-set props used during shooting.
"Most of our shots involved embedding graphics into a handheld computer," said Sutherland. "Rather than placing the graphics on the surface of the computers, they are a sort of hologram floating inside the units," he explained. "On set, they used these interesting transparent plastic blocks that looked cool, but were difficult to track, especially in stereo. We developed tools for our trackers, compositors, and paint team to help them judge stereo quality at their desks before reviewing on our 2K stereo projector. These tools saved a lot of time and iterations and they're proving useful on current stereo projects as well."