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October 2015

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THE MARTIAN 19 POST OCTOBER 2015 cameras, with additional support from GoPros, Blackmagic Design 4Ks and Arri Alexas, took place on-location in Jordan and on a greenscreen stage in Budapest. Here, Post speaks with Stammers about the VFX demands for the sci-fi adventure and how MPC created Mars on Earth. Can you outline the type of VFX work you completed for this film? "We divided the work into three main areas — Mars, space and Earth. And then we divided that across our three main vendors — MPC, which handled all of the Mars surface work; Framestore, which handled all of the space work; and The Senate VFX, which handled anything that was Earth bound, related to NASA, set extensions, window views and anything like that. "Most of the work fell to MPC because there was more [of the story taking place] on Mars — probably about 450 shots to MPC, 380 to Framestore and about 185 to Senate. Then we took on a few other vendors [when needed], including Atomic Arts, ILM in London and Milk Visual Effects to do some additional work." What type of direction did Ridley Scott give for the VFX work? "The script has a lot of resemblance to the book [by author Andy Weir] — ob- viously a great deal of the story takes place on the surface of Mars. So we knew that whatever happened, we'd be creat- ing Martian landscapes and the Ridley take on it is, that there's always got to be something beautiful about it. It's not only a terrifying planet, but subtlety beautiful. So that was a very important aspect." Were you on-location during the film's production? "Yes, I was on-board right from the be- ginning all the way through to the end of post, so my role was to definitely make sure that we'd be able to make a great match between our studio work and our location work." How did you decide on the location for Mars? "We did a lot of exhaustive scouting to find a place on Earth to shoot Mars. We settled on Jordan, which has some stun- ning landscapes. Most of the film on Mars takes place in a studio in Budapest. We had a huge greenscreen stage, one of the largest greenscreen stages in the world, where we recreated a section of the sur- face of Mars and the HAB, where Mark Watney has to survive for a long per- iod of time, surrounded by a huge, 360 greenscreen, so we could shoot in any di- rection. It was important that we got the look of that right, so we did quite a lot of planning to make the match between our preferred location in Jordan with our stu- dio-based sets. One of the things behind getting the look right was, we basically matched the terrain [in Jordan] with the studio. The idea being we would shoot most of the movie on-stage. At the end of our shooting schedule, we'd spend a couple of weeks in Jordan doing wide shots. For me, that was a great challenge because we had to make sure that our studio shoots matched identically with our location shoots." Can you talk about some of the VFX work that was done on the film? "I'll start with Framestore. They had some interesting challenges — we had a very compressed schedule and we had to build the Hermes spaceship. It's the main vessel the astronauts used to travel from Earth to Mars, and it's a huge ship and it took a lot of time to build. We got on with that as soon as possible. Framestore built a stunning CG model, which was very NASA orientated in its design. NASA has their own plans for future Mars missions and they're starting to do their own designs about what these ships might look like, and we took a leaf out of their book. There are a lot of similarities to the International Space Station in the way the components are modular and the design of the solar panels is almost identical to the International Space Station, so there's a lot of really nice details there that lend themselves well to a science fact film rather than a science MPC's Stammers (inset) stresses the importance of matching the on- location footage from Jordan with the studio shots from Budapest.

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