Design of the Craft
For more than a year before the beginning of principal photography, the team at Wildfactory in Camarillo, California -- led by key designer DANIEL SIMON -- crafted a flying apparatus of the future. Once approved designs were in place, the Bubbleship took four months to build in a warehouse in Los Angeles. Then it was taken apart, shipped off for filming and subsequently reassembled in Louisiana, Iceland and Mammoth, California. Sums Kosinski of the creation: "It's this hybrid of a Bell 47 helicopter that's hanging in MoMA in New York City and a jet fighter."
For the design, Simon was inspired by emergent NASA technology. Still, he knew how critical it was for the audience to comprehend how the Bubbleship might be able to fly. From dials, foot pedals and joysticks to a seat with lumbar support, the cockpit resembles a helicopter, while still evoking a futuristic craft. Made of aluminum and fiberglass and weighing in at 4,500 pounds, the Bubbleship travels in seven containers, with four technicians accompanying the vehicle. It has to be disassembled for air cargo, and it may only be lifted by forklift. It takes five hours to assemble, with a four-person crew working nonstop on all of its parts.
The Bubbleship components include the fuselage, cockpit, tail boom, two engines, flippers and landing gear; all of these parts have small panels that need to be assembled by hand. The landing gear serves as the base of the plane and holds the rest of the vehicle upright, while the two motorized doors to the cockpit open simultaneously.
Simon discusses the vehicle's structure: "In the concept of the whole design process, it was a given that the Bubbleship should look insect-like and lightweight. That's why we came up with this finessed and fragile landing gear; it's actually three legs. At the beginning of the design, we had it the other way around: We had the two legs in the back. It's based on a futuristic, compound structure, and it's capable of flying in space and in the atmosphere. It's a combined spaceship plus flight vehicle, completely designed from scratch."
Production designer Gilford expounds that the team needed to build a few incarnations of the Bubbleship. He says: "We had the complete Bubbleship, which is out on the bubble pad at the Skytower set; then we had just the cockpit on a full-motion-based gimbal. We received all of the flying footage, then in visual effects the rest of the ship was put on the backside of the cockpit. Then we built a couple other pieces. For example, we built a few crashed Bubbleships. It's been more fun than you can imagine."
Visual effects producer Gaub is extremely proud that the team's hard work has paid off. He says: "The Bubbleship design is impeccable, and it's one of the coolest things I've seen. In VFX we were able to give that thing weight -- all those little nuances and movements that make it feel like it could fly and move around. We're familiar with helicopters and we're familiar with planes, and this is a hybrid. So a lot of attention to detail was put in there to make the audience believe that this thing was built and can fly."
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