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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

About The Visual Effects
To bring to life a story of the size, scope and imagination of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, the filmmakers knew they would need to rely in part on the magic of CGI visual effects. But director Scott Derrickson wanted to be sure that the film's computer-enhanced imagery served to support, and not overwhelm, the narrative. "I don't think that modern audiences are craving more in terms of CGI effects; they're craving something that feels real and sparks their imagination,” Derrickson muses. "The defining experience that audiences want from the sci-fi genre is a sense of wonderment, a sense of awe about the possibilities that the universe and the future may hold.”

A major challenge for the director and his visual design team was re-imagining three iconic features of the 1951 classic that would be achieved through a combination of computer generated and practical effects: the means by which Klaatu travels to Earth (a "spaceship” in the original film); the form that Klaatu takes upon his arrival (in the Robert Wise version, Klaatu looks like a 30-something human man and wears a sleek spacesuit when he emerges from his ship); and the design of "Gort,” Klaatu's giant robot accomplice.

"There was a great simplicity to the original film in that Klaatu, his spacesuit, Gort and the spaceship were these things that clearly belonged to each other and didn't belong to the Earth,” says director Scott Derrickson. "We wanted to emulate that in a way that feels right for our time, but isn't rooted in what we usually think of as traditional science fiction technology. A progressive alien civilization might be based on advanced biology and ecology and systems that are more organic than the hardware we've come to expect from sci-fi over the last 60 years – flying saucers, spaceships, laser blasters. This notion opened up our discussion to come up with ideas that ultimately have a simplicity to them that feels real and very right for the story.”

In keeping with his approach to all aspects of the production, Derrickson mandated that the visual effects, especially those supporting Klaatu and his extraterrestrial accoutrements, should feel as real – and as little like "FX” – as possible. "Scott wanted to ground us in reality,” visual effects supervisor Jeffrey Okun says. "The biggest challenge was to create things like a giant spaceship and a 28-foot robot and make them look organic and naturalistic.”

Derrickson and Okun collaborated with production designer David Brisbin on countless conceptual explorations in trying to find the right look for Klaatu's appearance prior to assuming human form, his mode of interstellar transportation, and Gort. "As one concept would develop and progress, that would inform the design of the other two,” Derrickson says.

Keanu Reeves played an important role in developing these concepts as he worked through the script with Derrickson and screenwriter David Scarpa. "Keanu brought a thinking man's artistic touch to the process,” Okun says. "As he honed the script with Scott and David, he would come back to us with some really cool suggestions. Many of the things he brought to us had to do with the question ‘What if…?'

"For example,” Okun elaborates, "Conventional ideas about aliens tend to be based on a carbon life form in a humanoid shape. Considering how vast the universe is, there may be other life forms that do not breathe air or look like us at all. What if Klaatu's physical presence is not a physical presence as we know it? What if he has no form?”

It was decided that Klaatu would be represented in his rawest form as an entity made of light. Under Brisbin's direction, conceptual artist Aaron Sims designed the look for Klaatu's "lightbody.”

But what kind of spacesuit, if any at all, is worn by a being made of light? "One of the challenges that we faced was how<

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