V for Awe-Inspiring VFX
V is a reworking of the alien invasion series from 1983 now airing Tuesdays on ABC (8/7c), through this month and then picking up next March to complete its 13-episode season. Exec produced by Scott Rosenbaum, Scott Peters, Jace Hall, Steve Pearlman and Jeffrey Bell, the vfx for V is being handled by Zoic under the supervision of Andrew Orloff, who spoke to us about the challenges of the series as being very different from Battlestar Galactica.
Bill Desowitz: So how did you get onboard V?
Andrew Orloff: We were approached early on (early script stage) to help conceptualize it. And it's really a cool project because it's not often that you participate at the beginning of a franchise, though we were able to do that with Battlestar and Serenity. But this was special in that we were really involved in the design, especially the ships and their interiors, as I said, right from the beginning.
So, part of the original network pitch during the pilot phase and once it got greenlit, was going in and getting the new V mother ship design, and that entailed working with the concept artists here at Zoic and doing a couple of live modeling sessions with the executive producers with a laptop doing shapes, which was tricky getting it just right because we wanted to pay homage to the original series but update it. The original V was very saucer-like, so we wanted to keep it somewhat similar and have certain design elements -- like there's an equator of detail in the center of the old ship -- but we've just updated the shape to make it look more contemporary and visually interesting.
And instead of looking like great panels it looks like some kind of alien alloy with a different plating texture on it. So we had all of that done in the early, early phases and as soon as they got a production design team on, we started working with them and they came up with the original shape-design: a very, very loose sketch from the shuttle, which we turned into a fully-designed model and shuttle craft.
BD: Now what about working on the interior?
AO: It was also decided during the production phase for what the creative vision was for the show that they could not build the interior ship structures -- the sets-- practically. Because they needed to be too large, the corridors were too long, the ceilings were very, very high. And for the sake of practicality, the original idea that we threw around was that they create a small portion of the set and then we extend it. But what ended up happening is, there were five different sets day and night, and the practicality of building pieces of five different sets with different greenscreens attached in the stage space that it would take to make an extendable set, actually made it more practical to do 100% virtual sets for the ship interiors. Which was a leap of faith on their part. So we ended up doing between 125 and 150 interior shots: everything you see inside the mother ship is a greenscreen virtual set and that's continuing in the series as well.
BD: What have been some of the biggest challenges?