×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ VFX Supervisor Transforms Live Action Into Special Effects

When visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk came on board to oversee imagery for Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” reuniting with the director after a 20-year hiatus, he didn’t anticipate the massive amount of concept artwork he would encounter.

“I was overwhelmed when I first joined and saw the concept art. It was on a scale that I hadn’t seen before,” Stokdyk says. “Luc had been working with concept artists all around the world for years, but as we started bringing in world-class companies like Weta Digital, ILM and Rodeo FX [to turn the art into moving images], that’s when we really started to wrap our heads around it.”

Set in the 28th century, the sci-fi epic, which STX Entertainment is releasing in the U.S. on July 21, is based on the French comic-book series “Valerian and Laureline.” In the film, the two characters are played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. They’re sent on a mission to the metropolis of Alpha, where a mysterious dark force threatens the existence of the so-called City of a Thousand Planets.

For complicated scenes, like those taking place in Alpha’s Big Market, a bustling bazaar run by pirate captain Igon Siruss (voiced by John Goodman), Besson shot entire sequences using students in Paris as stand-ins and edited them together. “It was something I had never done before with other directors, where instead of visual effects artists creating the pre-visualization inside a computer, Luc actually went out and shot something for us,” Stokdyk says.

The film’s creatures were shot using motion capture on a bluescreen with cameras rigged by Weta Digital. Human actors interacted with the alien characters wearing motion-capture suits; then a pass with only human characters was recorded — all to be transformed in post.

During the shooting of emotional creature scenes, Stokdyk did little to intervene. “Luc is a camera operator too, so a lot of [the job] was observing his process and then getting out of the way — and stepping in for a quick moment to give him the information needed for visual effects,” he says.

Stokdyk adds that Weta’s advanced mo-cap technology let Besson shoot the VFX-heavy film organically, as if it were “a normal movie.  … Everything we were doing on set was geared toward giving Luc a live-action experience.”

Each creature had its own set of challenges. For Bubble, a shape-shifter played by Rihanna, physical motions were filmed to create her morphing effect. “A lot of it was a leap of faith, knowing that Weta could replace an arm, leg or even a face if needed,” Stokdyk says. “The technology gives us freedom to make something interesting.”

More Artisans

  • MTV The Challenge

    How 'The Challenge' Relied on Global Crew to Pull Off Plane Game

    Thirty-three seasons into MTV’s “The Challenge,” the reality competition series has spawned a band of traveling producers and engineers who fly around the world to create one-of-a-kind games. This includes placing cameras, smoke elements and a puzzle inside a plane that was suspended more than 30 feet above water. Executive producer Justin Booth joined “The [...]

  • Chaz Ebert DePaul CHA Documentary Filmmaking

    Chicago Program Gives High School Girls Lessons in Documentary Filmmaking

    At the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, three of the projects screening in the Short Film Corner — “Birthday,” “Phenomenally Me” and “Without Dying” — will be products of the DePaul/CHA Documentary Filmmaking Program, a six-week course co-sponsored by the Chicago Housing Authority in which high school girls learn filmmaking from graduate students and faculty of [...]

  • Steven Spielberg55th Annual CAS Awards, Inside,

    Cinema Audio Society Sets 2020 Awards Show Three Weeks Earlier

    The Cinema Audio Society has moved its 2020 awards show ahead by three weeks to Jan. 25 due to the compression of the season. It will be held at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown. The CAS Awards recognize sound mixing in film and television, outstanding products for production and post-production, as well as the recipient [...]

  • Rocketman Elton John Biopic

    'Rocketman' Production Team Took the Fantasy Route With the Elton John Biopic

    Paramount has high hopes for “Rocketman,” the Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton as the legendary performer. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, the film comes on the heels of Fox’s massively successful Freddie Mercury movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” and could capitalize on audiences’ newly discovered interest in rock star stories that transport [...]

  • Burbank-based Barnstorm VFX Studio Expands to

    Barnstorm VFX, Creator of Visuals for Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and Other Shows, Expands to Vancouver

    Barnstorm VFX, the company behind the visual effects on Amazon Studios’ “The Man in the High Castle” (pictured above), “HBO’s Silicon Valley” and CBS’ “Strange Angel,” has opened a new facility in Vancouver, British Columbia. The move positions the boutique digital effects, design and production shop to take advantage of expanding work north of the [...]

  • Maryland Production Incentives Include 25%-27% Refundable

    Maryland Lures Producers With a Tax Credit of Up to 27%

    With its close proximity to the nation’s capital and a wide diversity of filming locations, Maryland offers producers many enticements. The physical attractions range from the historic and picturesque Chesapeake Bay, scenic Appalachian Mountain landscapes, the U.S. Naval Academy with its marching cadets, the gritty yet gentrifying cityscapes of Baltimore, and the leafy suburbs around [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content