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04/10/2010

Rushes' First Men On The Moon

Rushes have completed full pre-production and concept design along with 312 VFX shots and full CG Selenite creature animation in 90 shots for The First Men In The Moon, the latest outing for director and screenwriter pair, Damon Thomas and Mark Gatiss, being broadcast on BBC4 on October 19.
It's July 1969 and the Apollo 11 astronauts are about to make their historic Moon landing. But they are in for a surprise - somebody has beaten them to it.
Mark Gatiss takes the lead role as Edwardian scientist Professor Cavor in his own adaptation of HG Wells' science fiction classic, The First Men In The Moon, directed by Damon Thomas. As the world waits for news of Apollo 11, a young boy meets 90-year-old Julius Bedford (Rory Kinnear) who tells him an extraordinary story of their journey to the Moon for which Rushes provided a total of 312 VFX shots including over 90 creature VFX shots in ten weeks of postproduction. Post production was completed at Ascent 142, with Simon Brook on the Nitris DS, Paul Staples as Colourist and Chris Roberts on Sound Design and Mix.
Rushes were approached in the early stages of production by Damon and Mark (Can Do Productions) to see how it would be possible to bring this incredible story to the screen. VFX Supervisors Hayden Jones and Jonathan Privett commented: "We were immensely excited by the project from Day 1 and decided we could make it work with sufficient planning. Right from the outset we worked as part of the production team, storyboarding the key sequences, pre visualising the stage to determine set proportions and camera angles, providing concept art, initiating and matte painting an 80ft by 15ft printed backing and generally including ourselves in all the pre-production meetings. This really paid off when we came to shoot and post the film as we were able to offer fabulous value and quality of shots in comparison to a less thoroughly integrated production."
A key element of the VFX was the Selenite CG creatures that inhabit the Moon's sub surface caverns. Supervising animators Andy Hargreaves and Craig Travis, having pre-visualised all key sequences, were then present with Jonathan and Hayden on set for shooting all of the VFX elements to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to post. Andy and Craig, in conjunction with Technical Director Mark Pascoe, gave the Selenites a distinct insect like but appealing character in line with their role in Wells' script.
The Sphere in which Bedford and Cavor travel to the moon was handled by Seb Barker who took over the entire sequences single handed, including all animation and compositing. The Rushes team used Maya, Shake, Nuke and Renderman to complete the project.
In order to combine the Sound design and VFX seamlessly, the collaboration across Ascent 142 and Rushes started very early in the process.
It's a rate challenge to have to design sound from scratch and for Chris Roberts and the team at Ascent 142, The First Men in the Moon presented a dream opportunity. The goal was to create a soundtrack to the story of two Edwardian explorers travelling in a home-made spacecraft to the surface of the moon, only to discover that it has an atmosphere… and strange, alien inhabitants!
Chris Roberts commented: "The capsule had to have an obvious mechanical, industrial, "hand-built" sound, reminiscent of a grand steamship of the age, but without being so noisy that it detracted from the dialogue!
"One of the most interesting elements of the project was to create a language and voice for the alien Selenites. The creatures had different personalities and character traits; some aggressive, some sympathetic and some as curious as our heroes."
Ascent142 was also responsible for the full picture post production. According to Roberts, the key to keeping a project rich with CGI elements and effects on schedule is communication. He said: "The 142 team worked very closely with colleagues at Rushes from an early stage."
Add into the mix the incredibly detailed Foley from Universal Sound and a wonderful score composed by Michael Price, the challenge was passed on to re-recording mixer Mat Knights who had the task of bringing all the sound elements of this ambitious project together.
(KMcA)
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