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Lensing in Iceland: Exteriors and Aerial Units
Kosinski long dreamed about shooting Oblivion exteriors on location in Iceland. It seemed like a perfect fit; at the height of summer, there are 22 hours of daylight in the country, conducive to a productive filmmaking day. Says the director: "The war has thrown the landscape back into the Stone Age, into a complete state of disrepair. Black sand and vibrant colors cling to the rocks, and the landscape is desolate but beautiful." Ironically, the command center run by Sally is only offline at night, and there was little night sky to be found during the shoot. Says Kosinski: "This film mostly takes place in the daylight, so we had it made with the natural, unique light of Iceland."

Oblivion shot for 10 days in Iceland, with approximately half of the crew of 300 being Icelandic. Eight weeks of prep included the shipping of all the production gear and the Bubbleship. Still, that was cutting it close for such an ambitious shooting schedule out in the elements.

As mid-June through early July is the height of summer in Iceland, and therefore the best weather all year long, the team picked this time as its filming window. Nevertheless, rain and extremely cold weather conditions made the building of the set and shooting challenging. Recalls Clark: "Earth is a main character in this movie. It's what Jack is fighting for, and Iceland shows an Earth coming back to life. It has moss underneath the black sands, it has water underneath the glaciers, and the color and the beauty of the country gives us that character."

About a two-hour drive from Akueyri, 30 miles from Lake Myvatn, the crew first found themselves at Hrossaborg, a 10,000-year-old crater that is shaped like an amphitheater. This crater was set to double for a stadium in the Northeast, post-destruction, and it was the size of a football field and then some. VFX kicked in to fill the barren landscape with stadium seats and a tunnel entrance to the field.

In the Icelandic Highlands, a region known for its black sand, a set was created for the postwar Empire State Building observation deck. The drive to set was more than an hour on black sands and gravel roads, resulting in a base camp of trucks and trailers that was in the middle of nowhere. Here, Kosinski's crew shot the pivotal scene in which Jack rides his Moto Bike across the unusual landscape in the Icelandic Highlands. The aerial helicopter unit that shot while in Iceland captured these and many other sequences.

Oblivion's VFX supervisor, Eric Barba, and Pixomondo's VFX supervisor, Bjørn Mayer, created a flight plan for the aerial unit consisting of bits and pieces that were needed for background plates. The aerial unit even shot at the world-famous volcano Eyjafjallajokull, known for its 2010 ash-cloud eruption that paralyzed European travel. Active lava still flowing from this volcano has created a canyon showcasing both hot lava and glacier walls.

One day of shooting in Iceland entailed helicopter access atop Earl's peak. All crew and equipment had to be transported to a mountaintop by a helicopter to this location close to the world-renowned Icelandic waterfall called Gullfoss.

Transporting all of the equipment to and from Iceland and into remote locations was no easy task. It was transportation coordinator AARON SKALKA's job to ensure that all of the trucks, cars, boats and airplanes, not to mention the shooting gear, moved when they were supposed to and ended up at the shooting location intact. Logistics included chartering a freight aircraft that could ship approximately 70,000 pounds of cargo. In addition to the air shipment, 15 40-foot ocean containers of materials went across the sea to Iceland. That shipment included building materials, finished sets, construction tools, special effects equipment, personal goods, expendables and lumber.

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