Dave Green directs Relativity Media’s summer family adventure Earth to Echo. The story follows Tuck, Munch and Alex, a trio of inseparable friends whose lives are changed after receiving a series of strange signals on their phones. The friends set out to look for the source, and what they discover is something beyond their wildest imaginations: a small alien who has become stranded on Earth.
Prime Focus World delivered VFX for several of the film’s stand-out moments as the children try to help Echo find a way home. VFX Supervisor Joshua Saeta led the Earth to Echo team in Vancouver alongside VFX Producer Misato Shinohara. Working directly with director Dave Green, the team delivered 16 shots that involved Echo using its powers to manipulate massive objects by breaking them apart into hundreds of pieces and re-joining them together again. These shots Included the assembly of a huge spaceship and of an in-motion big rig, which was disassembled and reassembled within seconds to its driver’s disbelief.
“With the truck, we had to figure out how to break it apart without it looking like a disaster,” said Prime Focus World VFX Supervisor Joshua Saeta. “I imagine if you took a real truck and smashed it apart you would have smoke, fire, shattered glass, dust - all these things. That isn’t what the director was imagining. It wasn’t supposed to look like an explosion, it was supposed to look like a magnetic force had pulled all of these elements apart and then made them come back together again, all clean and perfect. That, for me, was the most interesting and fascinating aspect of the show, because it isn’t something that I have seen or worked with before. It drew me immensely to the project.”
The PFW team enjoyed working with first-time director Dave Green. “Dave Green was very open and honest and curious; he was quick to ask questions, which led to a very collaborative effort,” remarked Joshua. “He was great at pushing the bar higher, so a lot of our shots evolved as we kept exploring what we could do to add more.”
This level of detail also produced some challenges. “Every piece was hand-animated, from the carburetor and the camshaft, to the wheels and the rims,” said Joshua. “We did do some simulation of nuts and bolts to factor in how the dust and dirt between the parts might move around, but all of the actual truck parts were each animated by hand. It was definitely the hardest part, but it came out very well.”
But it was the team’s work on the sequence in which the spaceship flies away that reminded Joshua what he loves about VFX. “Our goal is always to make it just a great movie moment. When the ship comes together, it is great because there is so much going on at that moment; but in the seconds after the ship suddenly flies away, we were able to make it more believable by adding subtle effects to the environment such as wind, leaves blowing around and shadows on the houses. It is all very quick, but it makes a huge difference. It creates that great cinema moment.”
Earth to Echo opens in US theaters July 2, 2014 and in UK theaters July 25, 2014.
RELEASE: July 2, 2014
Director: David Green
Studio / Distributor: Relativity Media
VFX Supervisor: Joshua Saeta
Executive Producer: Rohan Desai
VFX Producer: Misato Shinohara
VFX Coordinator: Elena Musacchia
CG Lead: Angus Wakefield
FX Supervisor: Tom Allen
FX Artists: Michael Davis, Janina Overly, Brody Fikkert, Reggie Fourmyle
Animation Artists: Daniel Lane, Joel Berger, Patricia Binga
Model/Texture Artists: James Song, Harlan Galer, Ty Chen
Rigger: Tony Chan
Lighting Artists: Caleb Wagner, Mike Smith-Kennard, Bryan Davis
Compositors: Eddie Englander, Jai Krish, Chris Courtland, Jordan Flanagan, Alex Jacquet, Rajavel Loganathan
BG Prep Artists: Heather Ryan, Carlos Rueda, Puneeth Kunnatha
Matchmove Artist: Kazuma Tonegawa