Going Outside the Box with Skyline
For Greg & Colin Strause, there had to be redemption after AVP-R. They had too much going for them at Hydraulx as VFX gurus and too much to offer as passionate directors. So, when they had the chance to make their own indie and play by their own rules, they couldn't resist setting up Skyline with Relativity Media and Rogue Pictures. Only they didn't want it to be like any of the other alien invasion movies they'd seen lately; they wanted their come into the blue light seduction to turn into a high-tech Godzilla and flying squids destroying LA.
"There was a confluence of four events that happened," Strause recalls. "The first was the frustration of trying to develop projects and having creative differences with producers; the second was watching Paranormal Activity make $100 million at the box office; the third was buying the Red camera and ARRI master prime lenses; and the fourth was remodeling my Marina del Rey condo and using that as a backdrop for our movie."
Skyline's concept was simple: Aliens come to earth with a very efficient idea for mass abduction that goes all the way back to Greek mythology -- the siren. They release bright, glowing orbs that induce people into a zombie-like state.
With a script by Animation Supervisor Joshua Cordes and Visual Effects Consultant Liam O'Donnell, Skyline was completed in less than a year on a $10 million budget with vfx comparable to studio sci-fi fare.
"One of the initial concepts for the aliens was we wanted to be as least derivative as possible and to try new things. So the first thing we decided to do was avoid metallic or ceramic motherships. We wanted ships to seem organic or have some living bio quality to them, and that inspired the overall design idea, which was asymmetrical. We used single-cell organisms as the hallmark of the design. On the creature side of things, the big design directive was we wanted something 60-feet tall. So that resulted in the first creature, which is called The Tanker, a scary monster that could smash cars and destroy buildings like Godzilla. The other creatures were ones that could defy gravity -- one large [Drone] and one small [Hydra]. The idea there being that the large one could fly around and terrorize the city and the other could be small enough to get inside buildings. There is a thread of DNA that shows the same light energy that these orbs emit connecting the ships to the creatures."
Skyline turned out to be the most daunting and demanding in Hydraulx history: 1,000 shots. They had an in-house design team led by Kino Scialabba, who worked in parallel with Amalgamated Dynamics (led by Tom Woodruff and Alec Gills, who worked with Hydraulx on AVP-R). Although the hero creatures required full the full treatment from design to 3D, smaller creatures went straight to 3D.