Behind the Scenes of Sci-Fi Movie Creations
Here's a quick overview of the behind the scenes of some of the summer blockbusters, how the sci-fi effects were created and scientific analyses of whether the imaginary creatures could exist in real life:
The futuristic exoskeleton systems seen in "Edge of Tomorrow" weren't created using cool graphics. The actors had to sprint through battle scenes wearing 71-132 extra pounds made from 350-400 discreet components. Materials included nylon, high-grade aluminum, and a lightweight polymer created specifically for the film.
2. Humanoid Alien
Is there any truth to humanoid aliens?
According to Stuart Sumida, a biologist at CSU who served as a consultant to "Guardians of the Galaxy," an alien advanced enough to master space travel would need to have a large brain. And, with a big brain, comes big responsibilities for the body. "If you have a big brain, you need a way to protect it," Sumida says. He's referring to the skull, which rules out worms, slugs, and invertebrates as models for extraterrestrial life forms.
But even with this stipulation, there's no reason to assume that extraterrestrial species would look like slight variations of us. They could have more appendages, different types of movement, or any other number of features that don't mesh with the anthropomorphic aliens infesting science fiction's biggest names.
3. Ultra-Real Apes
The set of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is an engineering feat in itself. But the three-story habitat of interlacing tree trunks, recessed rooms, and a flowing aquaduct houses something even more bizarre. Acrobats in full-body gray suits scramble up the side of the habitat, leaping between set elements without safety harnesses or mats.
While Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) relied on VFX to portray what it would be like for a chimp to fly from limb to limb, the sequel just hired Cirque de Soleil performers to do it for real. But VFX challenges are still very much present. More chimps means more special effects and a larger challenge. Standard procedure for performance capture indicates that performers should be confined to an indoor green-screen environment, and rely solely on head-mounted cameras to film their actions. But "Dawn" took the actors outdoors, using a series of small motion capture cameras. The cameras track LED-lit balls that are velcroed to the actors' suits and reflective markers on their faces, and then special effects artists turn that information into a 3-D rendering of what a real-life chimp in action would look like.
4. Human/Animal Hybrid
The characters in the upcoming "Jupiter Ascending" spliced animal genes into humans in order to make them more physically imposing. In real life, human-animal hybrids don't exist as such, however, animals have been genetically tweaked in order to allow them to benefit from human biology. The first example of this was in 2004, when the Mayo Clinic injected human stem cells into a fetal pig in order to study how viruses transmitted between species. But, in order for foreign matter to be accepted into the body, scientist had to completely immunosuppress their subjects - a practice that would kill any human patient. As a result, it would be impossible for a human-animal hybrid to exist unless at some point, our immune system becomes less necessary for survival.
5. Defying Gravity
The most technically complex scene in "Jupieter Ascending" shows Channing Tatum flying through a city using antigravity boots. However, instead of graphic effects, the stunt features a double suspended from a hellicopter as it flies over Chicago. In order to get enough footage, fimmakers used a Panocam, a six rig camera that is capable of capturing 180 degrees of footage. By stitching together multiple overlapping angles, the filmmakers could effectively pivot and swing through the shot in postproduction.
6. Can mutations spawn monsters?
Science fiction has long relied on genetic mutation as an evolutionary shortcut. But while sci-fi creators use genetic mutation to explain crazy powerful superheroes and animals, real genetic mutation is a bit less showy. Genes can be mutated spontaneously or manipulated in lab to create new traits, but they give humans the ability to perform feats like digest dairy, not eject spiderwebs from their wrists.
The source article article finishes up with a thought experiment about what kind of biomechanics engineering would be produced if aliens attacked.