A New Post-Apocalyptic Look for Oblivion
For the Tet, which is 30 miles long, a small practical stage was built to shoot plates, but everything else was digital. It was a challenging element to texture and light. DD was also challenged to create shots that communicated the Tet's scale accurately when the tiny bubble ship flies toward it. The interior of the Tet is a series of three inverted pyramids leading to the chamber where Sally (Melissa Theo), herself an inverted pyramid with a pulsating texture and red lens-like eye similar to the drones', resides. Artists created a sense of scale inside the Tet largely through atmospherics.
A practical drone was built and DD used the CAD files to create CG versions; modeling, texturing, lighting and animating them. One of the biggest challenges was that the physics of the round drone crafts would have prevented them from being able to fly. DD therefore worked with Kosinski and the art department to devise an approach for the drones that have an exhaust system that emits from various vents around the structure that stabilize them and provide directional propulsion. The result is a cool-looking vehicle with plausible motion. DD additionally made the look and graphic design of drone vision; what the world looks like from their eyes.
The hydro rigs are giant mechanical structures that remove vital components from the world's oceans, are fully CG. In fact, in one key sequence, the renegade Scavs strike back by destroying them; creating fuel cells that they put in the water. When the resource gatherers suck these up, they explode. DD made the mushroom cloud and devastated, smoking shells of the resource gatherers, still partly on fire.
The Ravens Rock attack underground is the DD's most complex sequence. Cruise and the drones attack the Scavs’ base camp, and the Scavs fight back, trying to engage the drones to steal their power supplies. The Scavs' base camp was shot in an abandoned power plant in New Orleans. DD created a full CG environment, added CG drones to the plates and extended the live-action environments with battle elements -- lasers, digital doubles for the Scavs and explosions. The sequence includes a complex 500-frame fly-through of the environment mid-battle.
While following a drone beacon into a hole in the Earth's surface Cruise nearly falls into a deep chasm that drops into the remains of the New York Public Library, where Scavs are living. DD extended the live-action library set to create the CG chasm and multiple floors it breaks through, as well as augmenting the shots of the scuffle with gunfire, explosions and multiple CG Scavs.
Cruise finds the site of the crash of his former ship -- along with human pods, and discovers someone important from his past. DD added CG smoke and fire to the environment in a 1,000-frame shot that follows Jack around the site.
"The biggest challenge was scale, making the audience believe the bubble ship flies around," Barba explains. "The hydro rigs are massive, as is the Tet. So any time you've never seen anything before, it's hard to figure out what's gonna sell it to the audience. There are some amazing designs but in the case of the Tet it's very sparse and simplistic. But we have a pretty good action hero in Tom Cruise selling the movie so that makes us look very good. Our real challenge is to make the audience believe that we're in this post-apocalyptic world and it wasn't that difficult once we sorted it out.
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld, the owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.