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Independence Day Resurgence: Volker Engel on the VFX attack plan

By Trevor Hogg

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Date Added: 7th July 2016

New & Familiar

"The tricky part of doing a sequel is that you have to bring back aspects of the original so that the fans are not going to be disappointed, and at the same time you can't tell the same story over again. So it's quite a juggle,” observes Volker Engel who spent 20 months on the project. "There are recognisable designs such as the alien fighter, where you can clearly see that they come out of the same factory. It's just 20 years later.”


A gift from the original movie became a critical piece of resource material. "At the end of the first movie our model shop supervisor Mike Joyce had a handful of alien attacker miniatures that were about two feet in diameter and made from the original moulds; he gave them away as presents to some of the key people of the movie. I kept the miniature in very good condition. Everybody asked about the specific texture that we did in the first movie so we did extensive photography of the miniature which was given to all of our vendors as reference.”


Vendor Transfer Tool

15 different vendors were responsible for producing 1,748 visual effect shots, with Uncharted Territory serving as the hub and as one of the vendors. "Under the guidance of the film's VFX Producer Marc Weigert, we implemented software called the vendor transfer tool. This tool involved a lot of computing power and helps all vendors to submit their shots and to have access to all of the assets that needed to be shared."



"Uncharted Territory also created all of the Area 51 interior hangar shots, and also the mothership interior for all flying shots. Scanline dealt with all of the destruction on Earth, like Singapore and the mother ship landing. Weta Digital handled the alien queen chase sequence, and MPC tackled everything that takes place on the Moon."

"I was happy to get Image Engine for the aliens," continues Volker. "Cinesite handled the exteriors of Area 51, and the alien queen's spaceship arriving and attacking. Trixter dealt with the AI ship; Luxx built the futuristic Washington D.C. environments; and Digital Domain did a great job with the surface of the gigantic mothership where the dogfight takes place, and the choreography of that battle.” Engel spent up to three hours a day with visual effects editor Mitchell Glaser. "Six or seven of our main vendors would sometime send 20 to 30 shots a day, which meant at some points you're getting over a 100 shots a day. All of those have to be viewed, cut in, and notes have to be given to the vendor. All shots with important changes I am reviewing with Roland.”




Rebuilding Cities

"I want to pay credit to Johannes Mücke, a German artist with his company in Vienna who comes more from the architectural side,” states Volker Engel. "Besides designing the alien mothership and more, he gave us the look for Washington, D.C. of the future many years after it had been destroyed. Roland came up with the idea that the White House would be rebuilt exactly like it was before.” The same approach was adopted for London which was initially going to be more futuristic. "During the flight over the River Thames you don't have much time to identify what is going on, so we stayed with a familiar look.” Visual research was conducted. "Scanline sent a small team to London to photographically cover all of the places we needed to recreate because we needed a look that is 80- to 90-percent of London as it is today. With Washington, D.C., which is featured in some elaborate wide daylight shots, we had Johannes and his team design it all.”




Unique Destruction

Making the destruction unique was a major concern. "That was a challenge that Roland was pondering for many years,” reveals Volker Engel. "It was not about bigger is better. What I like about this movie is whenever Roland does go bigger he pokes fun at himself with Jeff Goldblum saying, ‘This is much bigger than the last one.' And, ‘They like to get the landmarks.' Gravity is the weapon of choice of the alien mothership, which results in cities falling into each other. "Bryan Grill and Scanline worked on San Andreas which has no zero gravity buildings but you get an understanding of what happens when buildings start crumbling in an earthquake. Combine that with great physics simulation software and you see these fantastic results.”



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