Director Ridley Scott has created two of the most memorable and influential science fiction films in movie history in ‘Alien’ (1979) and ‘Bladerunner’ (1982); and now he is back with ‘The Martian’, based on the break-out novel by Andy Weir.
During a manned mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is badly injured during a fierce storm and left for dead by his crew. He wakes to find himself stranded and alone on a hostile planet with just his wit, ingenuity and spirit to keep him alive.
‘The Martian’ was primarily shot with native stereo cameras, but there was an amount of footage that required stereo conversion. The production was UK-based, and Prime Focus World’s (PFW) stereo team in London was delighted to be called in by 20th Century Fox as main stereo conversion partner on the show.
“There were a number of different types of shots that required stereo conversion,” said PFW’s Senior Stereo Supervisor Richard Baker. “There was lots of ‘GoPro’ type footage from the cameras in the Mars rover, and Watney’s video messages back to NASA. There was live action footage that was shot mono – for example, the Times Square shots and helicopter footage of the landscapes that would be used to stand-in for the Martian surface. And then there were some big VFX shots that required conversion, including the space station shots – interiors and exteriors.”
PFW worked closely with show supervisors Gareth Daley (Stereo Supervisor) and Richard Stammers (VFX Supervisor) on ‘The Martian’, and the first task was to convert the theatrical trailer.
“Working on the trailer was a great way of establishing the look of the show, and developing a dialogue with the production,” said Richard. “Gareth’s background is in native stereography, and through the course of the trailer I was able to pick up his likes and dislikes, such as how he wanted the depth to fall off. By the time we started work on the main film we were very clear on what was required.”
In addition to developing the look of the stereo converted material with Gareth, the PFW team also needed to tweak their conversion pipeline to accommodate the stylised look of the film.
“Ridley sharpened the footage significantly in the DI as part of the visual style of the film, and this quickly became apparent during our work on the trailer,” continued Richard. “This had an effect on our conversion pipeline in that subtle edge issues that you might not notice on a normal plate became noticeable on the sharpened plate. We quickly set up a process that allowed me to review and approve both the native EXRs, and a set of DPXs with grade and sharpen applied. As a result we didn’t have any notes from DI for broken edges.”
There were a number of other challenges encountered in the course of the conversion work that PFW delivered for ‘The Martian’, including complicated crowd scenes with ticker tape falling and hundreds of people in shot. Another tricky aspect of the stereo conversion for this movie was the number of shots involving visors, as Richard explained:
“Close-up shots of characters with helmets and glass visors are difficult to handle in conversion due to reflections and smudges on the glass, and in the case of this film, due to the internal lights shining out from within the helmets,” he said. “Getting those looking really clean in stereo is tricky; Gareth has a very fine eye for detail, and we went to great lengths to ensure that they were perfect.”
PFW led the stereo conversion work on ‘The Martian’ out of its London facility, where it handled creative supervision and geo-creation. The conversion work itself was handled by PFW’s Mumbai team, headed up by Stereo Supervisor Jimmy Philip.
“What makes this project stand out for me is how beautiful the shots look,” concluded Richard. “Ridley has gone really wide on these massive landscapes, and they are awe-inspiring. Visually it’s a beautiful-looking film.”
‘The Martian’ releases on September 30, 2015 in the UK, and October 2, 2015 in the U.S. and India.
RELEASE: October 2, 2015
Director: Ridley Scott
Studios / Distributors: Twentieth Century Fox
Senior Stereo Supervisor – Richard Baker
Executive Producers – Rohan Desai, Matthew Bristowe, Gaurav Jain
Senior Producers – Valeria Andino, Franklin Mascarenhas
Stereo Production – Barry O’Brien, Jimmy Philip, Richard Edwards, Subbu Pillai, Ravi Shetty, Marc Brzezicki, Chris Preston-Barnes, Rameez Mukaddam, Dan Hogg, Lewis ‘Sonny’ Menga, Dean Lewis, David Glover, Manu Jain, Himanshu Ajmera, Rahul Wagh, Deppali Katekar, Rohan Tirkey, Srikanthreddy Jakka, Puneet Samra, Amar Jariwala, Binoy Thomas, Alan Tormey, Kat Kelly, Vishal Patel, Naresh Rawat, Maria Asim Ali, Esme Coleman, Peter Bartfay, Mohit Varde, Arturs Vaitilavics