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Getting Closer to The Island

A while back VFXWORLD visited the set of Michael Bays THE ISLAND and more recently viewed the opening 45 minutes at a special DreamWorks presentation at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

One thing was clear: this sci-fi thriller (opening July 22) starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson is not your typical Bay actioner. Its got a quiet and creepy setup (LOGANS RUN meets THX 1138), in which the two stars are residents of a contained, utopian facility called Centerville in the mid-21st century. Like all of their fellow inhabitants, they yearn to win the lottery and travel to The Island, supposedly the last uncontaminated refuge on Earth. However, they quickly discover that their existence is a lie and must escape to stay alive. Based on the enthusiastic response to the presentation, which also included a stunning 10-minute freeway chase sequence that Bay excels at, THE ISLAND is being touted as one of this summers potential sleepers.

The Centerville set was constructed at Downey Studios, south of Los Angeles, containing four glass elevators, a pool, long walkways, exercise bikes and stimulation (or stim bar). In some respects, it resembled L.A.s Beverly Connection mall.

Eric Brevig, visual effects supervisor from Industrial Light & Magic and second unit director, discussed his role in crafting the 300-400 vfx shots on a tight 84-day production schedule: Were doing a lot of the things that weve done before [but doing them] better. New software allows us to simulate the reality of our photorealistic CG work. Basically, theres a higher degree of quality. The dynamic simulation of the destruction events will be more complicated, which requires a lot more processing in a shorter amount of time. Mike is such a stickler for realism. Having done PEARL HARBOR with him, I have an idea of what he wants.

Hes got a style that you can apply to any genre. Its edgy, its flashy, quick cutting, dynamic framing. Andall were doing is extending the technologies of today. When you see L.A. [shot in Detroit], it will have additional buildings that dont exist now; itll have aerial mass transit sort of like gondolas; monorails have been installed 30 stories above ground. Its a good mix of CGI and other effects.

Bay added, I wanted to work with Eric Brevig because hes a genius and I love working with ILM. You try to do as much as you can practically and more bang for the buck. You dont do a ton of shots but you do bigger shots and fewer of them.