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September 2013

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temporary suite in Mexico City and then later in one on the stages in Vancouver. Then we began real post and set up our offices, and Lee came on along with Pietro Scalia, who won Oscars for Black Hawk Down and JFK. And each one worked on separate scenes." POST: There's obviously a huge number of visual effects shots in the film. How many are there, and what was your approach to dealing with them? BLOMKAMP: "There's 870 which is a lot, but not that much compared to Pacific Rim or The Hobbit or Avatar, where you're talking thousands of VFX. That's a whole other level. As for approach, Image Engine, because of District 9 and the aliens, are so good at integrating characters over live-action performance. So in that film, you'd have an actor play the alien. It's not automated motion capture. It's rotomation, so the animators copy the essence of the actor, and then do the background restoration where they paint him out, and then you have the alien in there. "So in this, with all the robots and droids, the process is exactly the same — just with robots instead of aliens. So it was very easy for Image Engine. The big difference, that was mind-bendingly difficult, was creating the Torus. With both my films I have a very particular way in which the VFX work, which is that I try to give the VFX artists as much of a leg up as I can — meaning very clear light direction with sunlight, everything is embedded in the camera, the actor is there for reference so you can replace him. "With Elysium, most of the film is like that, but then suddenly you're cutting to a 100 percent digital render of the manicured inside of the space station, and that was very challenging to do." POST: What was the most difficult VFX sequence to do and why? BLOMKAMP: "Definitely the space sta- tion. That generation of a complete image from zero, that has to look totally photoreal, was a huge step up from anything we'd done in District 9. We ended up spending a whole year just on the Torus to get it right, but it was worth it." POST: Can you talk about the importance of music and sound to you as a filmmaker? BLOMKAMP: "It's all vital to complement the visuals, and sound designer Dave Whitehead, who did all the alien sounds for District 9 at Park Road Post in New Zealand, flew to Vancouver and created a library of sounds after watching rough cuts for all the weapons, the Torus, the vehicles and so on. But not to picture. He just assembled a library, took it back to New Zealand, and supervising sound editor Craig Berkey came on and started working on tracks. "So we began creating sounds way earlier than most movies, and it was the same with music. I got composer Ryan Amon to write maybe 80 tracks prior to shooting, so we had this huge library of ideas, and gradually we'd start to pick out stuff and themes. Then in the edit — even during the rough assembly — Julian could pull from those and start to build tracks. So that made the post process very comfor table since we had already done so much work. We did the mix at Sharp Sound in North Vancouver." POST: The DI must have been vital. How did that process help? BLOMKAMP: "We did it at Elysium was edited by Julian Clarke and Lee Smith. DFC, Digital Film Central, in Van- couver, and I was there a lot. But I wasn't using lots of Power Windows. It was more a case of dealing with balancing the overall color palette, because in this genre I want the audience to believe it's as real as if I took a camera to a space station and shot the scenes there. So I feel if I start isolating bits of a frame in Power Windows, it manipulates the image too much, and the audience innately feels that it's too synthetic. "My whole DI approach was 'keep it honest.' And the camera technology all changed between scenes on Earth and in space. Space was all Technocranes, Steadicam and dollies, while Earth was only handheld. So I actively tried to separate them, and it was the same with sound and, to a certain extent, the DI." POST: Any interest in doing a 3D film? BLOMKAMP: "Not right now. I don't like 3D." POST: What's next? BLOMKAMP: "I'm about to do this new film Chappie, which also has a lot of VFX, but the mental load compared to Elysium is child's play. It's meant to be a big secret, but I can say it's totally different from my other films, although it's in the same genre. It's mostly scifi, about sentience, and we're starting soon. "I wrote Elysium by myself, but I reteamed with Terri Tatchell [his screenwriter wife], who wrote District 9 with me. I'm good at ideas, but bad at writing them, so Terry and I wrote Chappie in two weeks, in the middle of doing Elysium, as the idea was so fully-formed. And it's a smaller film, so it's ready to go and we're shooting in Johannesburg, and then we'll do all the post in Vancouver as usual." Vancouver's Image Engine was the main visual effects house on the film. Post • September 2013 11

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