In this visual breakdown of MPC’s visual effects for Ad Astra, compositing supervisor Eric Andrusyszyn provides his insight into five different aspects of the work, including launch scenes, shots on Mars, shots in space and…visors.
Launch scenes: For the launch sequences, the client really wanted it to look real. They wanted something very tangible, something that you could look at and you could say, ‘Oh, that would relate to today.’ And we stuck to what launches looked like today pretty closely when it comes to those launches themselves. We watched a lot of NASA footage. There were various launches that we had on file that we referenced a lot, trying to make sure that we got the effects simulation of launch of all the volumes coming out from underneath it.
On Mars: When it came to Mars in general, one thing we really had to play around with was figuring out ways to put in more color in there because when you’re dealing with something like that, you don’t want the entire landscape to just be so monochromatic. If you’re staring at something that’s all one color, eventually it just kind of feels gray in general. So, it was about making sure that we added a bit of variety in everything, like the thrusters and all those different elements to give a little differentiation.
Neptune’s rings: The look of the space walk scenes near Neptune in general was actually probably one of the most difficult things that we worked on in the entire movie. You’ve got this ring – it’s thousands of kilometers but then it’s only about 180 meters thick, top to bottom. I believe it was four different particle sizes, ranging from golf ball size down, and then just thousands of thousands of particles.
In space: One aspect we really looked at a lot was specular highlights. And so in that sequence who is not only the specular highlights on the space-station, but also on the shuttle. Selling scale was important, especially when you’re working in an environment in space – you can’t rely on atmosphere to help sell depth.
Visors: The Neptune plates were filmed just against a black background with a single light to indicate the sun. They largely shot actors wearing visors, but there was some CG work to develop the look a little bit here and there of the gold visors. The challenge for the visor reflections was that we had to make sure that before we could apply any additional reflection of Neptune and anything else onto those visors, we had to make sure that we removed anything that was already reflecting it that you wouldn’t want to see, like set lights or the camera.