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Cinesite Creates CG Facehuggers

For Fox summer release Alien vs. Predator (August 12, 2004)

Cinesite (Europe) Ltd has completed several major sequences for Fox's forthcoming release Alien vs. Predator. This includes the creation of entirely computer generated, dynamic, moving Alien facehuggers, a first for the classic science fiction franchise.

Collaborating with Oscar-winning Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno, Cinesite Supervisors Ivor Middleton (3-D) and David Rey (2-D) were involved with several other sequences involving extensive digital matte painting, set replacement, multi-element motion control miniature composites and a CGI Aurora Australis.

The story for Alien vs. Predator is set in the present day. A hand-picked team of prominent archeologists, scientists and survival experts are transported to the South Pole to investigate a recently discovered architectural anachronism which appears to be a huge pyramid structure buried beneath the ice. Once inside, the team unwittingly finds themselves caught in the midst of a centuries' old ritual skirmish between the extra-terrestrial species.

In one of Cinesite's key sequences, Predator is unexpectedly ambushed by a flying hugger. The Predator turns, throws his shruken (a razor-sharp circular blade) and slices the Alien cleanly in half. This sequence required a CG facehugger that opens to expose interior organs in all their visceral glory. The same CG facehugger model also featured heavily in other key sequences.

Initial facehugger alien pre-visualization and modeling based on detailed storyboards and H.R. Giger's original creature for Alien (1979) was started at the end of 2003.

Principal photography took place in Prague in early 2004, with Rey and Middleton in attendance. Live-action plates were shot with tracking markers in the background and a prosthetic hugger cast was raised into the air on a long pole and walked through the shot to provide an invaluable lighting reference. Cinesite wrote a shader tool to virtually replicate the light from the original set environment onto the CG hugger. In compositing, Cinesite applied speed ramp techniques to the sequence to make the hugger attack more dynamic.

A resin cast of the physical alien model was provided to Cinesite to aid in the modeling process. The insides of the alien were based on photographic references of the biological structure of animals' internal organs. Two-dimensional enhancements were added to the interior of the alien, including the addition of "ultra-slime" (i.e. stringy "goo") between the two dissected halves of the alien. Finally, practical effects plates of exploding food and offal were filmed at Effects Associates, which were then composited over the hugger. Middleton says, "Our brief from director Paul Anderson was basically to 'make it disgusting' and that is what we have tried to do."

Alien vs. Predator releases in the United States on August 13 and the United Kingdom on October 22.

About Cinesite
Cinesite (Europe) Ltd recently completed all of the digital effects for the Disney/Bruckheimer film King Arthur. They are currently in production on Alfie, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire, The Hitchhikers' Guide to The Galaxy and Sahara.

For more information about Cinesite (Europe) Ltd, visit


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Related Keywords:Cinesite, Facehuggers, Fox, Alien vs. Predator, Cinesite (Europe), John Bruno, Ivor Middleton, David Rey, CGI, H.R. Giger, Effects Associates, Paul Anderson,

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