Director Shane Black’s sci-fi action feature “The Predator” may feature a familiar antagonist, but the reboot’s murderous extraterrestrial is packing seriously advanced technology. Production turned to artists at Method Studios, formerly Atomic Fiction, to help realize key moments featuring the alien technology, including an epic crash landing and high-stakes mid-air battle as well as sophisticated hologram and UI graphics.
Expanding on provided concept art, Method artists designed, modeled and animated two main alien aircraft: the Arc ship cargo vessel and the Pursuit ship. Artists drew from designs and iconography from the original “Predator” movie, adding a modern look, and also referenced high performance sports cars and military vehicles. The ships’ movements were grounded in physics, with creative variations to support the director’s vision. Design elements from the original feature also informed “The Predator” holograms and UIs.
While the Predator character was shot practically, its superhuman and invisible-camouflaging abilities were achieved digitally. Method artists augmented the Predator performance, at times inserting a digital double for complex movements that were keyframe animated. VFX Supervisor Ruslan Borysov led the project for Method along with Creative Director (and Atomic Fiction co-founder) Ryan Tudhope. Borysov said, “There was much discussion about how to convey the Predator’s invisibility and how visible he should be at certain moments. After extensive creative research and collaboration, we came up with a sleek design that was dependent on his velocity; he becomes more visible the faster he accelerates, then is invisible when still. The look of the Predator’s invisibility is iconic so we aimed to add contemporary features but maintain the refraction of the original.”
The Predator’s invisibility look is echoed in the Pursuit ship’s force field effect, which Method developed after comprehensive design R&D.
To help streamline the creation of the Arc ship’s crash landing, the team first animated the ship’s movement throughout the full sequence, instead of following a traditional shot-by-shot approach. Method also built an expansive 50 square-kilometer full CG environment populated with rivers, mountains and forests to provide the filmmakers with extensive creative freedom in determining and changing camera movement, location and framing.
“Ultimately VFX is a storytelling tool and our aim was to make the practical and rendered environments and elements match perfectly so that viewers are immersed in the story, regardless of how the action escalates,” Borysov noted. “We have a lot of Predator fans on our team so working on this project was quite special and great fun.”
Method also created the action-packed and FX-heavy dogfight sequence featuring two F-22 stealth fighters battling the Predator Arc ship, as well as a CG Hubble Space Telescope and the opening sequence’s dark matter portal, which was designed by Method concept artists.
More on “The Predator” here.