Image Engine has a long history of working on the Stargate franchise. The first project took place back in 1997 and the crew has since provided visual effects for over 70 episodes.
In the Universe series, Image Engine worked on 4 episodes including “Darkness“, “Light” and “Pain” and received a Primetime Emmynomination and a LEO nomination for the episode “Space” in which an alien craft attacks the team of soldiers and scientists aboard the Destiny.
Alongside creating the space ship and environments, the crew was given a further opportunity to draw upon their recent work on District 9 when they were awarded a design brief for new aliens for the series.
“We were approached with a brief to create a new alien from scratch that would exceed anything previously seen in the Stargate franchise,” says nominee and Senior Visual Effects Producer Steve Garrad. “Our District 9 alien experience fit the bill perfectly, and having the tools already developed in house meant that we could really raise the bar for creature animation in a TV Series.”
James Stewart, Creature Supervisor on District 9, created the model for the design, which although bearing some similarities to the aliens of District 9 was a much more exotic-looking creature with a translucent skin and vividly shaded internal organs. Reference from the natural world was used to develop the look from various amphibian and aquatic creatures.
“The aliens were bipedal and had a similar skeletal structure to a human, albeit significantly bigger”, explains Jason Gross, visual effects supervisor for the project, “which meant that we had to work hard to give it an other-worldly quality so that it appears mysterious to the viewer, as well as having the potential to be menacing.”
The aliens interact with their environment and the human actors in dynamic ways including a fight sequence in which crewmember Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) wrestles with an alien whilst on board the extra-terrestrial ship. This shot was filmed with a grey-suit actor, which the animation team used as a basis for animating the alien. “This kind of shot is all about the details” says Gross, “There were lots of small fragments of glass in this shot which our compositors painstakingly animated within the plate to interact with the alien, which all lends to the level of realism required to make this kind of shot really work.”
The company’s robust film pipeline also added the flexibility to make changes on a global scale very quickly via its proprietary asset management tool.
Speaking on behalf of the team, Gross says: “I am very proud to say that we delivered film-quality work for Stargate Universe.”