The Martian Visual Effects

Out of all the Best Picture nominees, The Martian is probably the most easily accessible for general audiences. It’s fun, dramatic, has a simple story, a great cast and just works. Mad Max: Fury Road is a close second, but it’s definitely far too weird for your grandparents who would probably love The Martian.

Following the Oscar nominations, studios are starting to put out more featurettes to take people behind the scenes of the movie vying for the big prize this year. This time it’s The Martian visual effects taking the spotlight with a reel that shows off just what was real on the film that stranded Matt Damon on Mars, and what wasn’t You might be surprised to see what was practical and what wasn’t.

Here’s The Martian visual effects reel from MPC (via io9):

It’s easy to think that some of the landscape shots of Mars just needed some color correction to make mountains, canyons and sand look like the red planet, but there was plenty of terrain and more that had to be digitally inserted into the movie.

On the practical side of things, it’s nice to see that they actually blew up part of the Mars base on set instead of doing that all digitally. There are some visual effects used to enhance it, but otherwise the giant tube was actually thrown across the set.

One of the more surprising elements that was completely created in post-production were the reflective visors on the astronauts’ helmets. Even the transparent glass part of the helmet was added digitally. This makes sense practically, because otherwise you probably have some trouble reflecting light from the set or seeing crew members that would have to be erased digitally from the visors anyway. Plus, the helmets have to reflect things that aren’t actually on set. So creating them from scratch was the best thing to do.

Even though visual effects are so advanced today that there’s almost nothing that can’t be done with the motion picture technology we have at our disposal, I’m still impressed when I see reels like this. It’s not easy to make people believe that something fake is real, and in The Martian, it’s extremely hard to tell what’s a visual effect and what’s a practical piece of the production. We’ll see if they’re good enough to win the Oscar when the awards are handed out next month.

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