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VFX HQ: The X-Files: Fight the Future

The X-Files: Fight the Future


Directed by Rob Bowman
Visual Effects Supervisor: Mat Beck
Visual Effects Producer: Kurt Williams
Miniature Unit Supervisor: Scott Schneider
Creature Effects by: Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.

Visual Effects Produced by:

Visual Effects Supervisor: John Wash
Visual Effects Producer: Matthew Ferro
Digital Supervisor: Derek Spears
2D Supervisor: Edwin Rivera
Production Coordinator: Daphne Dentz
Art Director: Alison Yerxa
Miniatures Supervisor: Scott Schneider
Special Effects Crew Chief: Ed FelixLIGHT MATTERS/PIXEL ENVY
Digital Effects Supervisors: Edson Williams, Greg Strause
3D Supervisor: Colin Strause

Visual Effects Supervisor: Peter Koczeria

Visual Effects Supervisor: Peter W. Moyer

Special Miniatures Created by HUNTER-GRATZNER INDUSTRIES
Supervised by: Ian Hunter, Matthew Gratzner and Shannon Blake Gans

Miniature Pyrotechnics by O’CONNOR FX

Additional Creature Effects by: KNB EFX GROUP

Review by Todd Vaziri

Making the big move to the silver screen, THE X-FILES is a visual feast, advancing upon the already fantastic visual imagery created for the popular television. THE X-FILES delivers the goods, with classy visual imagery primarily provided by Blue Sky|VIFX and Light Matters/Pixel Envy, with some stunning miniatures provided by Hunter Gratzner Industries. A clever combination of digital and practical methods were used to create the film’s effects.

As seen in the television series, the ‘black oil’ is an oozing alien force, that slithers to its prey, burrowing under its skin until clouding its victim’s eyes black. Taking its work from the series up a notch, Light Matters/Pixel Envy provided the seamless CG goo for the film, as it crawls up an unsuspecting boy’s legs. The 3D matchmoving on the crane up is quite good, with the worms convincingly moving up the boy’s body under his skin. The ooze finally reaches the boy’s eyes, which cloud over with the black oil. The milky, cloudy ooze that permeates the boy’s eyes was accomplished via small cloud tank effects, then digitally composited over his eyes.

Although appearing in only a scant four shots, the visual effects portion of the Dallas building explosion sequence is stunning, evoking chilling memories of the real-life Oklahoma City bombing. The 1/8 scale building portion built by HGI is destroyed with a terrific amount of detail–although the overhead shot of a fireball enveloping the camera contains some apparently frame-blended footage, the shots are seamless, with fine compositing by Blue Sky|VIFX. The

“The [alien interior] sequence paves exciting new roads in digital set extensions… rivaling if not surpassing the excellent engine room sequences in TITANIC.”

smoke and dust realistically wraps around nearby trees and cars, really selling the beautiful wide shot of the building being engulfed in flames and smoke. A naturalistic pan around Mulder and Scully to reveal the gutted building seamlessly locked live action and miniature into one terrific shot.

Flash forward to an eerie cornfield in the middle of Texas, where Mulder and Scully come across a secret installation. In a particularly unconvincing shot, the characters climb over a mountain top, with the camera following, eventually revealing the cornfield, the secret white buildings, and the freight train they had been following. Although tracking in this sequence did what it could to sell the shot, there are too many contrast and matte issues that make the viewers quite aware that they are watching an effects shot.

Subsequent shots of thousands of bees swarming Mulder and Scully are breathtaking. During principal photography, no actual bees were used for the swarm shots. Composited into these plates were footage of real bees, along with detailed CG bees, all of which help complete the illusion. Even during complicated camera moves, the bees actually seem to be in that environment, with realistic motion blur and mesmerizing tracking and compositing.

Light Matters/Pixel Envy really shines through in the spaceship interior shots, where Mulder discovers the enormous cavern that is the center of an enormous flying saucer. The design of the interior isn’t particularly exciting, with the requisite steam bursts, curved, semi-translucent alien architechture, etc. But what is exciting is the brilliant integration of the alien environment with the live-action element. Actor David Duchovny was filmed in front of enormous blue and greenscreens, while the alien environment was created mainly in 3D (with 2D pieces smartly substituted for areas with little perspective shift). The camera moves that make up the sequence are not at all typical effects-camera moves. Bobbing up and down around Mulder, the camera swoops some 100 degrees, angles up, angles down–all of which had to be painstakingly tracked in 3D. Particularly exciting is a shot where Mulder climbs through a small opening, with the camera following. This sequence paves exciting new roads in digital set extensions with naturalistic camera movement, rivaling if not surpassing Blue Sky|VIFX’s work on the excellent engine room sequences in TITANIC.

Subsequent shots of Mulder sliding down a steam fitting are interesting, if not a bit cliche. The 3D environment holds up quite well, with camera movements and perspective shifts matching the live-action footage nicely. Eventually, Mulder causes the ship to lift off from its icy home in the Antarctic, zooming off into the heavens. The launch sequence is scattered with some brilliant shots, and others which are fairly unconvincing. Wide shots of the domed buildings collapsing are obvious, with an over-contrasty feel and a lack of depth. Other greenscreen composites of the actors are substandard, as well.

“THE X-FILES is a remarkable achievement for Light Matters/Pixel Envy.”

However, the compositing of miniature ice chunks falling into the earth around Mulder and Scully are quite incredible, highlighted by some wonderful camera movements that make it truly seem as if the two characters are running away from the collapsing ice. Extensive ice miniatures were photographed and composited with live-action plates to create the illusion. The ship itself as it zooms into the sky is not particularly interesting, nor are the shots that surround it. The wide shot of the alien craft, primarily realized by a 6 foot, 200th scale miniature model, heading into the clouds is odd, with interesting yet unmotivated cloud formations. The film ends with a really nice shot of an isolated cornfield in the Tunisian desert. Although the matte pulled for the sky is a bit shoddy, and the sky itself is far too perfect to be real, the shot is a winner, holding up under many long seconds of scrutiny.

THE X-FILES is a remarkable achievement for Light Matters/Pixel Envy, whose work on the remarkable 3D tracking seamlessly integrated Mulder into the alien environmnment. They’ve completed many nice effects in the past, particularly for VOLCANO, which Mat Beck also supervised, but nothing of this scope and caliber. Although a few shots in the film are quite obvious, the film contains some spectacular effects highlighted by the alien interior shots, and the Dallas building explosion sequence.

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Official Web Site: http://www.fightthefuture.com

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