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Visual Effects
Some of the characters in "Evolution” weren't cast; they were created.  A team of visual effects wizards, led by visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett, worked with Ivan Reitman to design an ever-evolving assortment of alien creatures, which were then digitally rendered in the computer.

"Phil Tippett was the perfect man for the job,” Reitman states.  "He worked on the dinosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park' and the giant alien insects in ‘Starship Troopers,' and what I noticed about both was that he gave them a sense of weight and of being in real space.  That's what I was looking for in this film.”

For months prior to production Tippett and Reitman met to determine the genesis and progression of their alien invaders.  Though the creatures' alien origins gave the filmmakers enormous creative license, applying the basic theory of panspermia, they basically tried to stay along accepted evolutionary paths: from single cells, to multi-cells, to flatworms, to amphibians and reptiles, to birds and mammals.

"It was very collaborative,” Tippett remarks.  "We created hundreds of different creature designs.  Some of our evolutionary paths met dead ends, so we'd back up and go in other directions until we found the look and feel of what these phantasmagorical beings should be within the context of the story.”

"I got such a kick out of working with Phil,” Reitman says.  "He really loves these creatures.  He loves getting into their heads—getting a sense of what they are like, how they would respond, how their bodies would move, how much displacement is there in the ground as they walk…  I think, in some sense, he thinks of them as real.”

Approximately 80 percent of the visual effects were handled by the team at Tippett Studios.  They began at the drawing board with sketches and artists' renderings and then proceeded to 3-D maquettes that were digitized into the computer and, finally, computer animated.  Just a few of the creature creations coming out of Tippett Studios included alien variations on spiders and dragonflies, walking logs, tentacle trees, a seemingly adorable alien "dog,” a large winged creature, and a giant amoeba.

Taking designs done at Tippett Studios, a portion of the digital work was also accomplished at PDI/DreamWorks and Sony Imageworks.  PDI/DreamWorks was responsible for the meteor hurtling through space and crashing into the earth, as well as the uni-cell and multi-cell organisms seen through a microscope, while Sony Imageworks handled the computer rendering of the squirmy flatworms, which were the next stage of the alien evolution.

Apart from the computer, Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. provided the creature make-up effects for the primate-like aliens.  In some instances, physical models of dead aliens were needed.  KNB EFX was responsible for making the necessary props for those scenes, including the lifeless flatworms and winged creatures, and the dead "dog.”

Despite being involved in the visual effects process from start to finish, Reitman remains astounded by the results.  "I am constantly amazed by the sense of reality that today's visual effects present.  It's incredible to see some huge creature walking through your frame, interacting with real actors on sets where you know it wasn't really there.  You can't believe your eyes.  It becomes a new kind of truth.”

The sets were designed and built by production designer J. M


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