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In His Mind’s Eye

16 Dec, 2013 By: Ashley Ratcliff

VFX supervisor Peter Muyzers on creating the intangible in ‘Elysium’

Crafting something as elaborate, intricate and unfamiliar as a space station inhabited by humans miles away from Earth circa the year 2154 could be a daunting undertaking for any illustrator or visual effects designer. But not for Peter Muyzers and his team at Image Engine, who were responsible for making Elysium a reality.

“[I’m] most proud of the way Elysium looks as a space station,” the visual effects supervisor said of the dwelling place for the very wealthy in the film. “There was an insurmountable amount of time that passed [when working on it]. I think we mastered it and made it believable. All of the terrain, all of the mansions, there’s actually so much detail. There are birds flying around. There are people playing tennis.”

The team worked on close to 1,000 visual effects shots to dazzle viewers, from the various robots and droids, to the flying vehicles integral to the look and feel of Elysium.

Muyzers unveiled some of the secrets behind the movie’s myriad visual effects to a capacity-filled room during a presentation at Autodesk University in Las Vegas Dec. 4.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases the sci-fi actioner, starring Matt Damon and Jodi Foster, as a Blu-ray Disc combo pack and on DVD and Digital HD UltraViolet Dec. 17.

Elysium centers on one blue-collar man’s dangerous mission to bring equality to two polarized worlds: that of the elite, manmade space station of Elysium and of the overpopulated, dismal Earth.

“It’s a great action story,” Muyzers said.  “I don’t tend to buy a lot of the films I work on because I work on a film for so long, and I get tired of it. But actually I’m looking forward to Elysium. It just shows a variety of the complexities of the work. There’s always something different in every single scene. Elysium has these really cool, provoking environments, whether it’s run-down Earth or the pristine conditions of Elysium, and I’m just intrigued by that story.”

The Blu-ray’s exclusive bonus material includes an extended scene, an interactive feature highlighting the art and design of Elysium, and featurettes about the visual effects process, the film’s technology and the post-production.

A visual effects veteran, Muyzers has worked on films such as The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Incredible Hulk, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, among others.

To Muyzers, his line of work constantly is filled with wonder and awe at the finished product achieved after weeks of dedication.

“I enjoy the process of working with artists from the very beginning when you just have a concept drawing,” he said. “Then you have to try and communicate that into a language that [the filmmakers] understand and can work with and visualize it in a two-dimensional way. It’s quite a fascinating process. It takes a lot of time to get to that end result.”

Muyzers re-teamed with Elysium director Neill Blomkamp, having worked together on 2009’s District 9. The two are slated to collaborate again on upcoming film Chappie.

“With Elysium it was a step up from District 9,” Muyzers said. “Whether we’re working with Neill or another client, it always has its set of challenges. Sometimes you can drag out the process longer, spend more time or money finding out what the director wants. With Neill he’s very clear, and I admire that about him as a filmmaker. He knows what he wants and he knows how to articulate it.

“If it’s something that doesn’t exist and it’s in your head, how can you express it to someone else?” he continued. “[Neill’s] a very materialistic thinker in that he can actually relate his vision [to something tangible]. More directors should be able to do that and have that power of visual authority.”

For example, Blomkamp ruled shooting Elysium in 3D out of the equation early on.

“He, as a filmmaker, does not necessarily believe it’s a tool that is worthwhile for him,” Muyzers said. “I think a lot of times, the decision gets made, perhaps because of marketing incentives or ticket sales or what will help it do better at the box office. Neill is not too much interested in that.”

“Personally I believe more in 4K than I believe in 3D,” he added. “I get more value out of seeing something in high resolution and in detail than having to see it in 3D, especially at home. It kind of hurts my head.”

Elysium, of course, was mastered in 4K. Muyzers has high hopes for the latest advancement in viewing content.

“Where does it end? I’m sure when we were doing SD back in the day, people were going, ‘HD? No one’s going to want to watch anything in HD.’ And here we are, getting to 4K resolution,” he said. “I see advertising everywhere for television sets that you can buy at a reasonable price today for 4K televisions. There’s not a lot of content just yet. No one’s broadcasting at 4K yet, but it’s going to take a couple of years to get the market saturated with content at that level. All the films being made right now, especially Sony films — the ‘Spider-Man’ films, have been made with 4K.”

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