Going Post Apocalyptic with After Earth
Post apocalyptic movies are all the rage at the moment but each has its own distinct take and look. After Earth is an intimate father-son story starring the real-life father/son team of Will and Jaden Smith. After enjoying The Last Airbender, Will called M Night Shymalan to wish him Happy Birthday and to persuade him to make his movie, which is about a father and son growing closer together when they crash land on Earth 1,000 years from now after humanity has relocated to an alien planet. It's a rite of passage story in which the young military cadet must overcome fear and hone the special ghosting skill, like his legendary father, that renders him virtually invisible to a predatory alien.
After directing The Last Airbender, Shymalan was attracted to a more intimate story that's a throwback to his breakthrough hit, The Sixth Sense. And yet he approached the 800 VFX, including an assortment of oversized animals and creatures, as part of a naturalistic backdrop for his two-person drama. Jenny Fulle of The Creative-Cartel (Ted) served as VFX producer and Jonathan Rothbart handled production VFX supervision.
Fulle continues to successfully manage a VFX hub business model, which is fast and nimble during these turbulent times. Her latest wrinkle is Joust: new workflow software they beta tested on After Earth, which streamlines management of the digital workflow by tracking dailies, images, scenes, and meta-data, saving time and money and bringing greater efficiency to production.
"We were able to do all our own visual effects pulls, so on an 800-shot show, getting a plate pulled used to take five days," Fulle explains. "Joust can now do that in a matter of minutes for us. With the truncated schedules that we're given in post-production, every hour and every day we can save, the better it's going to be for the film.
"It was the most spread out I've ever been," she adds. "Jon Rothbart was based in San Francisco, Night and editorial were in Philadelphia, my production team was in LA. We had vendors in Northern California, Southern California, Philadelphia and around the world." Tippett Studio and Iloura did the creatures and Iloura and Pixomondo worked on environments on Nova Prime and Earth, respectively. Other contributors included Incessant Rain, Ollin Studio, Pixel Magic, Spin VFX, Spy Post, Svengali VFX and Dive among others.
"But it worked out very well," Fulle continues. "All of us worked remotely and made it feel like a team and we even figured out a way to do 2K sync reviews for finals with Night watching on his 2K projector from the comfort of his farm."
This was a very different experience from The Last Airbender for the director, which was handled by ILM. "But he liked the idea of taking the best of everything and melding it together," Rothbart suggests. "Each facility has its own character and artistic vision so it was nice to work with different vendors and having it fit together."
The overall challenge, of course, was the concept of what Earth looks like in 1,000 years. How have animals and creatures evolved? "And then it was creating those creatures and creating those environments," Fulle continues. "We were at the upper end of the spectrum of the work."