New Hardware, Water and Aliens for Battleship
Battleship may have sunk at the box office, but Industrial Light & Magic has added some noteworthy wrinkles to its VFX arsenal that deserve attention. Scanline VFX and Image Engine upped their game as well.
Of course, what director Peter Berg wanted all along was to bring Battleship to the screen with an authentic real world sensibility for both the naval and alien ships. The mandate was to shoot at sea and to use real Navy ships, which played right into ILM's photorealistic ethos. They captured great footage and then recreated them in the computer for destruction.
However, the biggest challenge was the massively armored alien ships called Stingers, which are inspired by water bugs that can sit on top of the water and slide around the surface. In profile the Stingers have outstretched wings. Later on, though, Berg suggested that they could catapult into the air and then crash into the water. ILM VFX supervisor Grady Cofer and animation supervisor Glen McIntosh were initially terrified of that idea. "We did a test of the ship and that became an interesting characteristic, which led to some striking imagery," Cofer suggests. "In addition, they could recycle water. We dropped hoses underneath the ship that suck water and there are water ports around the outer surfaces. It became a personality shape, so if a ship got angry or was ready to attack, we could open up all of these water ports and jettison water out and leap into the air."
The aliens, Regents, took a year to develop. They have protective metal shields and helmets, which hide the humanoid creature inside. Berg wanted an alien that was more familiar and sympathetic, like old, grizzled, fighters from another planet. "So we created different personalities," Cofer continues. "He wanted some to be curious or over confidenct and in some cases scared. The Thugs are a subset that does all the dirty work. Unlike the more cerebral superiors, they're the infantry, so to speak, and are built to be tougher and stronger.