AVP:R Visit!

Upon my arrival at Hydraulx founded by the Brothers Strause, I was amidst of what could have been part of the ALIEN universe. Located in Santa Monica, California, the FX studio seemed almost like another world in itself. It was a dimly lit studio surrounded by metallic and technology. Several of the employees worked feverishly to create another effect to make audiences believe in monsters, aliens and predators. But this felt nothing like a factory, the wardrobe was extremely casual and truthfully, if you have to work in an office, you could do much, much worse than this. As the other journalists and I got cozy in a small conference room with several chairs and a desk in the front, Greg and Colin Strause soon joined us. Both of them looking a bit tired, but they were willing to lead us on a tour throughout their own magic kingdom.

We first took a look at several employees working their magic. I really am a big fan of being able to have toys at your desk and I saw a few really cool additions that were hovering over a couple of the work areas. We talked a little about the system they used which lead to talk about the DVD for AVP-R, which they were finishing up for that special unrated cut. The extended cut will include about 7-8 minutes of footage that won’t appear in the theatrical. This promises to be ““even more intense than the theatrical”, although, I would certainly hope so since it’s unrated. The extra addition is something that came later on and by the sounds of it, might be pretty damn cool for all you fanboys out there.

Next was the composite room. It is the place where they put together all of the CG. It was a meeting of the minds as the assistant editors and the effects people got together and created some movie magic. It is here where we learned about the use of Final Cut which is how they completed the entire movie. Generally, editors prefer to use avid, but with the success of 300, which was done on Final Cut, Fox liked the idea and supported the change. It surprises me that with the success, it isn't being used more often, because it is also more cost effective. Give it time.

After a little more show and tell, we were given the opportunity to check out a couple of scenes from the film. And from what I saw I was a bit intrigued, because for those short moments it seemed to have potential. The first scene offered up some predator love. It involves a one of our heroes, a good ole predator investigating a crash site in the midst of trees, dirt and mud. The special effects do look much better this time around. And although we see a whole lot of the lone predator, he looked more realistic than before. Although the scene didn’t really exite me all that much, it was only a taste.

The next glimpse has a couple of things going on. First, a group of the human characters are searching around in what looks like a morgue. There is more gory goodness this time around which should be a requirement for a film like this. As they continue on, a predator finds his way to the building. But he follows a different route. Soon, both groups are attacked by aliens, and one moment reminded me of ALIENS, in a good way, as a group of these long and toothy mouthed beasts came out of the darkness. But as I said, I thought the scenes were good but I wasn’t drooling with excitement. Hey, sometimes I drool. Yet, one moment sealed the deal. I won’t tell you what happens, but I will tell you that even if it were the only good moment in the film, it would at least be worth a rental. Talk about a massively brutal assault. And I have a feeling there may be a few more kick ass action bits from The Brothers Strause with creatures in tow.

After the preview, we got to talk shop with the boys. They spoke about the possibility of a third film, what ALIEN and PREDATOR movies mean to them, and we also about bringing some of the classics back by means of Foley. Read on and keep that dome head of your on the look out for when AVP-R hit’s a theatre near you on December 21st

Greg and Colin Strause

In regards to continuity, the first AVP kind of switched up the technology, have you gone back to the first ALIEN and PREDATOR?

Colin Strause: Some stuff’s been moved over. Like, we redesigned the alter that Scar’s body was on to make the ship look more predator-ish, you know. We tried to stay as close as we could but there’s a few things we had to massage a little to kind of make the movie more what we wanted it to be.

So this is immediately following AVP?

CS: Yeah. We re-do the Scar vs. scene and then some extra stuff on the ship. Which actually, we just released on Yahoo.UK the first five minutes of the movie today. Slightly cut down, there’s a few shots missing. There’s an exterior of the planet. The big wide on the planet with the Wolf ship flying away with a big hole inside this temple thing where he receives the distress signal and watches all playback on that.

So is this going to tease into a possible other film that will maybe take us to the predator home world?

CS: Yeah, well, we kind of told them, this is kind of, to us at least, the end of the earth story. The next one’s gotta be in space, you know. We kind of end this one like, we’re kinda done here. It’d be nice, the next one, to be before ALIEN but definitely kind of needs to be more of a space epic.

Could we get to a point where there is a movie that’s just monsters?

Greg Strause: [Laughing] That’s a hard sell. [Laughing]

CS: We pitched on the first one and our pitch was like DANCES WITH WOLVES and we had like forty-five minutes where there was gonna be like no spoken language at all in the movie. Needless to say we didn’t get the first movie.

GS: We tried.

CS: ‘‘Yeah… sounds great. We’ll call you.’ [Laughing]

Can you talk about getting this one?

CS: Yeah, it actually went pretty quick. We met on the first one, so we had met all the executives over there. And our effects company, we’ve been doing a lot of work for Fox. Because we got THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, we did all the FAN FOUR movies, X-MEN 3, just a ton of stuff over the years. And we pitched on WOLFENSTEIN and got really close to selling that at Fox. And when this thing came around, it was all the same executives and everyone. We got it, and got our hands on it. In about a week or so, we put together a visual presentation on our ideas on how to take the script they had, where we wanted to kind of put the movie. We had one really good meeting with them and then we had like two other meetings after that and then we basically had the job booked.

Can you talk about the design of the Predalien? How many incarnations you guys went through?

CS: It was definitely one of the trickier ones. I mean, it was one of the harder things. There are so many other people that have to see stuff and have to approve and try and get everyone on the same page. And one of the cool things was with A.D.I., the guys, like even for the predator, they must have had, sixty/seventy different concepts painted together of all different predators. I mean, some of them were from previous movies they didn’t use, a bunch were new ones they did. Like the whip was something that one of the concept artists just happened to have, this huge bullwhip, and as we were over there in the first meeting, we saw that and we were like ‘holy shit, that’s about as cool as it gets, we gotta put that in the movie.’ So it was just really good working with Tom [Woodruff Jr.] and Alec [Gillis] on that, because what they would do is, we did our initial designs in Photoshop with our designer. We showed it to the guys from A.D.I. what we wanted to do. And they would start doing their paper designs, we’d get something kind of close and they would start building all these maquettes. Then we’d start with the head maquettes and then they’d start with the full body maquettes. And we probably went through …

GS: Yeah, I remember going through some of the artwork and it was like, part Alien version sixty-five you know and you’re like, ‘Ah, Jesus Christ.’’ You just naturally go through a lot of iterations but there were some concerns. We wanted to keep her very much an alien, so there was some back and forth about how many predator characteristics should come through…

CS: One of the trickier things too was, its one thing when like us, like when all the geeky fans who know everything watch the movie, like, oh, I know that’s obviously a warrior alien, I know that’s the Predalien, but the biggest issue we had with the design is because were going so dark with the movie, and there's a lot of rain and atmosphere and everything… does a normal fan, is a normal person going to be able to watch the movie and tell the difference? And that was like one of our biggest tricks. We knew the hardcore fans would get it instantly but a good design also has to appeal to people who really don’t give a shit about the franchise, they just go to see a movie and they actually like it. We had to make sure we included all those people in it as well. So that was one of the things, making sure… that’s why we cheated the pigmentation a little bit more yellow on her. And just things so that even if you just see flashes of her, at least a general audience member will be able to track it. But at the same time, not water it down with design or anything and make it kind of generic.

What were the key things that you had to have on her, such as, the fangs…?

CS: Yeah, for us, it was keeping the alien teeth, because that’s such a distinctive feature. And having the dome, that’s why we went back with putting the skull underneath the glass dome, so it has a real predator skull under there. In the original ALIEN you could never really see it because the photography was lit so dark. We have a couple shots in the movie where you actually can see the whole skull through feature and everything underneath. And then with the mandibles, basically with the egg laying scenes, we wanted to match the mandibles on there so she could actually wrap around almost like a face hugger in a way, and grab peoples faces as she’s doing the impregnation. So that was kind of an important design thing. It also just looks, I mean, in the battle sequences I think she looks pretty fearsome when she has the mandibles closed she looks more predator. But when they open up, you see the distinct alien teeth and everything so……

ALIEN fans have been waiting a long time to see aliens on earth. How much fun do you have with that in this?

Well the thing that we were trying to be careful of, is we didn’t want to have aliens dancing in front of McDonalds. And a lot of people were worried that here on earth, its like, what are the locations gonna be so that’s one of the first things in our pitch, we said the movie has gotta take place [and] powers gonna be knocked out and we want it raining. Because seeing an alien in broad daylight or just plain view is gonna look stupid no matter what you do. The reason why it worked in all the other movies is because you have dark space, you have flashing, blinking lights, steam coming out of everywhere. I mean you had all these great elements to cover them up basically. And if you don’t do that, they're going to look like guys in suits. So that’s why we made sure that, first we wanted to get all that atmosphere and then picking cooler locations. The first big battle takes place in this underground sewer network. The next battle takes place in a power plant. Then you’ve got the big rooftop battle and then there is a National Guard battle on the street in the rain. So we tried to pick locations, that were earthbound, yet they still are reminiscent of you know… like the power plant is gonna look very much like ALIEN. You know, it’s got all the yellow warning beacons and a lot of steam and everything. We are trying to give it that space sort of feel so that even though it is earth it doesn’t … we tried not to make it feel cheesy or anything. Give it much more, gritty kind of environments.

Do you have other films conceptualized that are in space approaching the time line of the original beacon?

CS: Yeah, we’ve been talking very loosely with the writer and all that, and what could be the next one but we’re gonna wait and see how this one does and what the deal is. But yeah, I think the next one needs to be in space.

This may obviously be a fan boys dream, but what is in store for general audiences?

CS: Ah, well, the big thing we did with the movie is try and make a good scary film. We tried to treat it, not as a “vs.” movie because I think sometimes I think “vs.” movies get a little cheesy. Like FREDDY VS. JASON, which is entertaining but there’s a little bit of a funny cheese to it. We tried to keep it as serious as we could with the creatures and just make a good, kind of scary, dark movie. You know, basically the idea was to do like a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with creatures. That was kind of the tone so…

How do you feel it will do that weekend?

CS: I think it will be pretty cool, because with I AM LEGEND coming out before us…

GS: SCREAM movies did really well during that week. People ask about that but that’s a huge movie going week. Everyday of that week is almost like a Friday or a Saturday so…

Was there a scene in the film that was very difficult yet you are very proud of?

GS: I'm trying to think of the most complex [scene] without a total spoiler. One of the hardest scenes is still… not completely been spoiled yet and we're trying to not spoil everything because it gets really easy with every interview you give away one little hint in each one and suddenly, there is nothing left to find out in the theatre. So we are always trying to dampen ourselves on that.

CS: Well, the big thing was just that there were a lot of shots.

GS: The ship crash stuff in the beginning, was actually some of the more intense stuff. Just plowing over a whole forest of trees. All the fire and that stuff is pretty involving.

CS: Every tree had to be completely 3D and we built these simulations so that when it actually hits the trees, they bend over and start snapping and breaking as the ship kind of plows over them.

GS: The trophy room is pretty involved too.

Can you tell us a little bit about the REQUIEM in the title?

CS: Well it’s kind of two things… one, it was trying to show more of the adult theme…

GS: The real answer we can’t give you on the record. [Laughing]

CS: Yeah but it was also supposed to make it more adult which is basically the big thing with the movie. The last one was more just kind of a normal sci-fi, this ones much more [of a] darker tone. As you saw from that clip it’s a lot meaner of a movie.

Can you talk about how the original films influenced you?

GS: Well it’s funny, Colin and I said this before, we’ve done a lot of movie pitches and a lot of times you don’t just talk about the project you’re there to talk about. You talk about things you like and what your tastes are, where we were always like, PREDATOR, best mission movie ever made, bar none. And then ALIENS, just from a horror standpoint, it scared the piss out of us when we were eight years old. You know, just loved that movie. Also, it’s a scary action film but its got a real heart to it. The whole Ripley dynamic and her starting as a mom and having her become a soldier, just great character.

CS: And also, [James] Cameron was a big influence on us when we moved out here. We saw TERMINATOR 2 and that was like… we were already doing visual effects in Chicago and it was like, once we saw that movie, we were like, we gotta get to LA. You can’t work on toothpaste commercials forever. We had to get out here. When we first saw ALIENS it was a pay per view in a hotel room. And our parents went into a crafts show or something and we kept flipping on the channel, would watch if for a few minutes and if we thought we would hear them in the hallway we’d flip the channel back. We didn’t realize every time we'd go back, we kept getting billed like fifty bucks. [Laughing] So we had like a two-hundred dollar bill that our parents almost killed us over. That was our first time seeing it. We’re just huge Cameron fans. To me, the favorite ones are ALIENS, PREDATOR and ALIEN. That would be my top three.

When you both work together, do you have a similar mindset?

GS: Yeah, we have to, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to sit here together.

CS: It's interesting, some things we’re completely aligned on and some things we’re very different about. Which is nice because we get to play devil’s advocate a lot. Which is a nice thing, where the director who's by himself, you know if there’s something he’s not quite sure about, he has to be careful who he says ‘I don’t know about this’ because that usually looks like a sign of weakness. Where I can go to him and go, like ‘this idea is stupid’ or ‘yeah, that’s a f*cking retarded idea. Don’t do it.’ or vice versa, ’this idea is good’ so it lets us kind of push each other. It lets us kind of battle out the idea so that when we actually show up on set we know that we’ve worked out both sides of an issue.

What about with editing?

CS: Well, what we did on this, which was really cool, was because of that whole Final Cut system, we were able to… our editor Dan [Daniel Pearl] is just blazingly quick. As we were shooting the movie, first we did pre-vis for the battle sequences and then we storyboarded out the whole film and cut it all together. So we literally had a full movie storyboard. And then as we’d shoot, he’d be cutting stuff all during the week. And then every weekend when we were up in Vancouver, we would literally watch whatever the assembly was of the movie the whole time. And the cool thing about that, we were able to make changes on set so when we’d be shooting something and going ‘oh, you know, we needed a close-up of this’ we could then go tell second unit to pick up this shot without it being extra days in our schedule. Or we could say like ‘hey, we don’t need this scene now, it’s not needed for the movie, don’t waste your time on this, move on.’

GS: So sometimes I’d wait until he left and then I’d sneak in and f*cking change his stuff. [Laughing] I’d be like, ‘what the hell’s he doing… oh no, he can’t do that’.

You guys have been involved in so many landmark effects films, what do you think is the next step?

GS: Stereoscopic.

CS: 3D stuff is gonna be the future.

GS: I don’t know if you guys have seen BEOWULF or not but the 3D… the stereoscopic aspect experience, I thought it was awesome.

CS: I wouldn’t bet against Cameron either. It’s gonna be the future I think.

GS: It brings you into the picture more.

CS: I find myself, with my home theatre, ‘I’ll just wait for the DVD.’’ But stereoscopic, you kind of have to get your ass off the sofa and get to the theatre to watch. It’s a cool thing, because going to the theatre should be an experience. It shouldn’t be a chore. And having something like stereoscopic, it’s something you can only experience there. I mean, 3D TV, 3D plasma’s probably won’t be out for another eight years or seven years or something, realistically, so I think that’s going to be an experience that’s going to be unique to the cinema for awhile which will keep people going there.

You had mentioned earlier about using the different Foley, using the master of the original films. Could you talk about that?

CS: Yeah, that was a big thing. Especially, like in the last movie, I think the predator vision didn't sound quite as full because it didn’t have all the heartbeats and all that stuff. So we made sure that we pulled all the original sound effects. Like when the aliens get killed, that squeal that you heard in ALIENS, they call that the peacock-elephant. It was a weird one off recording in a zoo where they happened to be recording a peacock and in the background, a baby elephant squealed at that exact time. And that’s the exact noise. They just literally used that same sound effect every time. So we did the same thing and we wanted to make sure the movie…

GS: In certain places some of the recordings kind of showed their age in their quality so we would layer new recordings on top. So a lot of the sound effects can be twenty, thirty, fifty layers of sounds all mixed together at once. So on a lot of ours, the foundation of them will be the original.

Some of the music sounded as if it was from the earlier movies.

CS: Yeah, when we had Brian [Tyler] do the score, we told him the idea was that we wanted kind of a blend of ALIENS and ALIEN 3... And we really wanted the bongo drums for predator, so make sure on all the key moments on all the predator shots that you get that. Again, that’s just to give it a little nostalgia and make it feel familiar because we really wanted to get back to that old sort of feeling with it.

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Source: JoBlo.com



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