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MOON

THROUGH THE AIRLOCK
Figuring out how to film two Rockwells in one was hardly the only production hurdle. "The film was technically and logistically very difficult,” admits Jones. "We filmed over 33 intense, highly technical days of shooting at Shepperton studios, in the same sound stage where Ridley Scott shot Alien nearly 30 years before. The set of Sarang was a 360-degree environment. The crew would go in through the airlock in the morning, and be sealed inside the base for the rest of the day.

Jones, production designer Tony Noble, and concept artist Gavin Rothery had talked exhaustively about how to capture the look and feel of beloved sci-fi films while taking advantage of their own up-to-date effects expertise. "I had a background in effects-heavy commercials in Britain,” says Jones, "In particular those jobs that blended computer generated effects with live action photography. It gave me a confidence and awareness of which effects would be most cost effective, where we could get the biggest bang for our buck. We knew that by using some old school techniques like model miniatures, a retro (and cost effective) production design, and then by building a layer of contemporary CG effects on top, we could create a hybrid live action/CG style. It would create a sumptuous and textured look; beyond what you get with pure CG. But it's something you don't see much of in feature films.”

As befits a story line about a nuts-and-bolts mining operation, "We wanted the base and its vehicles to have the same "grit and big boots” feel as the old sci-fi we missed, as opposed to the more contemporary (but wimpier) iPod-style glass and touch-screen design most sci-fi seems to go for these days. Things would look like they were made of concrete. The architecture would look engineered and have hard angles. Tony Noble pulled off miracles to make our visualizations a reality.”

Beyond the cold white interior of the station lay the moon's surface. "As a bible for the look of the lunar exteriors, we relied on Full Moon by Michael Light, an amazing collection of NASA photos from the Apollo missions, filled with beautiful, high-contrast 70mm photography of the moon from both space and its surface. It gave me a very clear idea of what I wanted the exteriors of our film to look like. We worked with Bill Pearson, model genius of Alien fame, to create live-action models and sections of lunar landscape for our vehicles to run across, and then with the help of the fantastic London special-effects house Cinesite, we enhanced the models and digitally extended the landscapes.”

Jones loves the idea of fellow "Sci-fi nerds outdoing each other trying to catch all the little homages paid to sci-fi films of the past,” but expects MOON to tap into broader interests and emotions as well. "I want people to leave the theatre tapping away on their iPhones, looking up Helium-3 as a potential fuel for fusion power generation, and discussing the prospects of Lunar mining.

"I want sci-fi geeks to be jumping around excitedly, chattering about how cool we made the rovers, harvesters and base.

"I want the romantics to be teary-eyed, having a little shared moment with the people they love, or calling them up if they are far away.

"But most important, I want people who love movies to say, "That was pretty damn good. I wonder what these guys are going to do next…””

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