Space Command is poised to take back control of the science fiction genre. It is not only going to 'revive' it, but take it to the next step in the evolution of what space movies are meant to be. At the same time, it is going to make ground and space breaking new strides in how such entertainment is produced. In this post, we take a look at how QuadSpinner will affect the environments of this movie.
In 2010, I got an email from Doug Drexler (Academy, Emmy, and VES award winning wizard) inviting me to contribute to Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome! If you have enjoyed Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica in the past decades, you have been touched by his work. And if all his credits are not impressive enough, he has personally done special effects work on both Al Pacino and Q! And Spock. And his father! (Sarek, not Max Nimoy.)
My latest project with Doug is Space Command. As the movie’s website says, “SPACE COMMAND is a series of new and original feature films written, produced, directed by and starring some of the top science-fiction visionaries working today.” But also just as impactful is the fact that Space Command is doing this without a major studio backing them. It is funded on Kickstarter by people like you and me. Real people who care about sci-fi, not bean-counting, unimaginative executives who couldn’t tell the difference between Spock and Justin Bieber.
The legendary Peter Plantec, wrote a great column on Studio Daily where you can read more about the production.
Last September, I had the wonderful experience of teaching a Master Class on 3D environment design in Los Angeles where I had not one but TWO sci-fi and VFX legends – Doug Drexler and Dan Curry! We even had the entire matte painting department from Dreamworks. The purpose of the class was to show how environments, whether for movies or TV, can be done faster, better, and cheaper.
I remember the email Doug sent me after seeing the kind of things we could pull off: “I'm so excited about the possibilities. This sort of quality has always been a weak link in television science fiction. You usually had to be a big budget feature to pull this off. Stunning work.”
While artists on features know the value of making a shot cheaper, it is the TV show artists that really have to live and die by that sword. They are churning out episode after episode on a fraction of the time and budget given to a movie. We have transporter technology from the original Star Trek because Gene Roddenberry knew doing a shuttle take off and landing would be too expensive!
If a shot is expensive, then it would need to be taken out and replaced with something that can better fit the budget. Sadly, sometimes great story points have to be sacrificed if they’re too expensive to produce. But if you can lower the cost of a shot, then it not only helps you do that shot, but you get to give some time, space, and budget to other shots that may have been cut out otherwise.
The series finale of Battlestar Galactica, or impactful two-episode story arcs from Star Trek like ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ and ‘All Good Things’ are just as long and rich in story as a feature film. Can you guess how tiny a budget they had compared to a movie? And there was never a moment where one might go “oh, that effect just looks primitive” or “I don’t buy that”. Even today, after so many years, those shows can still grip your heart and mind; and do the age-old thing that sci-fi fans have always done – curse the Borg and the Cylons for messing with our heroes, while still thinking they’re so damn cool!
On the Space Command project, we get to take all the things from the Master Class, plus new techniques developed since then, and marry them to new technologies developed at QuadSpinner. This is technology that has been used by major studios on many feature films, but Space Command gets to use the most cutting edge, never-publicly-released stuff that will run circles around what you may have seen before!
Space Command has a brilliant team of artists that can create amazing spacecraft, CG characters and creatures, space fights, and now they get the ability to add just about any imaginable environment that our brave heroes will explore!
My work these past few years has been on CG environments that can be anything required to tell the story accurately, and at the same time render in 1/50th or even 1/100th of the time it would normally take. And we are talking about FULLY 3D scenes, not 2D/2.5D compositing magic. For example, a cool new environment I just animated for Space Command would have usually taken 20 to 60 hours to render. We did it in one afternoon without compromising quality.
Space Command is going to show the world that, just like the space faring heroes we have come to love and respect, there are new frontiers of visual storytelling that can be achieved without a multi-million dollar budget. My little contribution is to give them the ability to make environments even more exciting, expansive, and engaging; and help them tell the damned best story possible.
The people at the helm and in the captain’s seat have wisdom and experience that has created shows and features we have thoroughly enjoyed. The people in engineering are bringing several hundred lifetimes worth of talent and knowledge. How can this not be a project to die for?!
If you haven’t seen SpaceCommandMovie.com, take a look or go to their Facebook page. If you can pledge any amount, please do as it can help make Space Command even bigger and better than it is already going to be. Help us spread the word. It is time for us sci-fi fans to take back our genre! And if you want to see a whiff of the kind of environment quality Doug was talking about, see the Master Class Trailer or this teaser for the Helios Cloud Technology.