Cowboys & Aliens: Circle the Wagons and Blast 'Em
As usual, it's been a very busy summer for ILM, with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and now Cowboys & Aliens. But, like all large VFX studios, they're continually reaping the benefits of the proprietary technology: namely, energy conservation shaders and lighting models for greater photorealism, as well as the GPU-rendered Plume for large-scale explosions along with dust and dirt during interaction with the aliens.
Speaking of aliens, ILM had quite the challenge in devising something new for this intriguing mash-up of the western and sci-fi directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and co-starring James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indy Jones (Harrison Ford).
While Legacy did the overall design of the alien, which is a bipedal reptilian-like creature nearly 10-feet-tall, in collaboration with production designer Scott Chambliss, ILM not only made the CG version but also created a more advanced version of the species.
"We created an uber alien in evolutionary scale to make it more complicated in hierarchy," says ILM visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, who also oversaw onset vfx production. "We used the Legacy design as a foundation and then [vfx art director] Christian Alzmann and others developed it.
"And when you think of the western, you have people in very arduous conditions. It's people in big country, big terrain and big environments facing the elements. And I thought that the irony of all this was that the aliens turn up and it could be more exaggerated for them. This is not their planet. They're frontiersmen in a way: traveling to another place and having to deal with all the adversities of the climate. And in our case, we played up the fact that they weren't comfortable in our world. There are flies all around them; they didn't like the light; when they were wounded and exposed, a strange fungus grew around them."