Into Orbit With Jupiter Ascending

April 21, 2015

Duncan Evans talked to David Sheldon-Hicks of Territory Studio about working on the set of the Wachowskis' sci-fi epic.


By Duncan Evans


When legendary directors, the Wachowski's, wanted screen graphics and displays for their spaceships in Jupiter Ascending, their first port of call was London-based Territory Studio. It was a selection process made easier for everyone because Creative Director, David Sheldon-Hicks, had already created similar effects for Ridley Scott on Prometheus. Territory was duly hired to create user interfaces for screens that would feature as part of the navigation systems in a number of spacecraft scenes. Invisible forces such as gravity, wormholes and cloaking devices needed illustrating, with Jupiter Ascending Production Designer Hugh Bateup suggesting that 3D weather maps would be a good starting point. Then there was the concept art. A whole room of beautiful art with lifts spacesuits, environments and spaceships. It had already been created and was to serve as inspiration for the visual look and feel of the film, even the bespoke typeface that Territory created for the film.


David and his team of five artists got to work investigating how best to use isometric lines, that are normally used to describe weather fronts, to represent 3D energy fields as animated organic forms. Most of the effects were generated in Cinema 4D using the Thinking Particles plug-in with XPresso being used to control them. The basic idea was to generate anything between 100 to1000 particles and then use effectors to move them around. In this way force fields like weather maps could be created, with morphing, to describe specific story points. Usually, this kind of animation creates chaotic elements, but here the team tried to incorporate such effects. The real problems started with getting certain animations to loop. David explained how they solved this issue, "Cinema 4D's MoGraph tracer and hair shader settings were key to helping us figure out the looping issues with the swirly wormhole graphics."


The other problem was how to compensate for the irregularities of the physical screens in the spacecraft bridge environments. Unlike most VFX projects, the majority of these weren't added in post, they were projected in real-time onto glass screens. This process was figured out in partnership with partner Compuhire, the engineers behind getting the graphics on set.




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