LightWave 3D Boosts Battlestar Galactica
Burbank, CA -- Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is a new science-fiction drama from NBCUniversal premiering tonight on Machinima Prime’s YouTube channel for 10 episodes until February 2013 when Syfy, a division of NBCUniversal, is expected to televise the pilot and also offer it on DVD, Blue-Ray, On Demand, and digital download. Throughout the history of the Battlestar Galactica franchise, LightWave 3D software has been a constant in the show’s production pipeline for everything from otherworldly atmospheres to earth-shattering visual effects. Blood & Chrome continues the tradition, adding Cylon robots, snake creatures, and more than 20 sets constructed entirely in LightWave 3D.
Blood & Chrome was originally envisioned as an innovative Xbox project comprising nine 10-minute segments with a budget of only $2 million. “Obviously, we can’t shoot Battlestar Galactica for $2 million,” remarks Gary Hutzel, visual effects (VFX) supervisor at Universal Cable Productions and on Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.
“I suggested that we look at a radically different approach to the show: to shoot it entirely against greenscreen. As the project gained momentum and the studio realized the cost benefits of this approach, the project gained more financing and grew into a two-hour “backdoor” pilot for a potential television series.”
Hutzel and the team at Universal were faced with a formidable challenge: producing a Battlestar Galactica-quality, VFX-heavy film from scratch—with “no sets and no locations,” he recalls—at a cost far less than a typical sci-fi pilot. “The way that we accomplished that was to do the entire show on greenscreen,” Hutzel describes, “and I mean the entire show. We are breaking the mold. Right now, we have 89 minutes of content and roughly three minutes of that is filmed against a set piece. The rest of it is greenscreen or pure CGI (computer-generated imagery). That’s how we attacked the project.”
“We are not a visual effects house in the normal sense,” affirms Doug Drexler, CG supervisor on Blood & Chrome. “Gary has set up a new paradigm. In his model, visual effects is part of the production, just like the art department. We’re there to do anything needed to get the job done.”
Blood & Chrome pushes the new paradigm even further, Drexler adds. “The visual effects department art directed, built, lit, and lined up the shots, designed all the action sequences, created the mood, and drove home the intent of every single scene. What person who fancies himself a filmmaker doesn't dream of being able to do that? And what other department could even conceive of being able to? This is the kind of power that comes from that unassuming little CG package called LightWave.”
After the team shot the live action against greenscreen, the artists moved ahead with designing the virtual elements, including the mood and look, says Drexler. “The computer and LightWave give us a lot of freedom; we can experiment to our hearts’ content without the constraints of budget and building physical sets.”
Drexler and his team of 10 CG artists used LightWave to retrofit the Galactica, including the Battlestar’s interior sets. “Because the show was all greenscreen, we had an opportunity to expand the ship and give it greater scope.” He and the artists pushed back walls and raised ceilings, but stayed true to the original Galactica design and layout.