Thursday, August 2, 2012

Anatomy of a skitter: Inside the 'Falling Skies' aliens

Hello, Skitter. Courtesy EW, TNT
Entertainment Weekly has provided Falling Skies fans with an incredibly detailed and insightful look inside the guts of invading skitters.

In the past, we've already covered some of the FX wizardy behind Falling Skies, which received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The show's effects are a blend of practical and CG, and result from the work of two vfx companies, MASTERSFX - mainly handling practical effects - and Zoic Studios for the digital. EW reports the two companies have teamed up before for such shows as True Blood and Fringe.

The blend of effects allows the show to have its aliens interact at close range with actors like Noah Wyle - and allows them to feature a range of nuance creature emotions - while also making it possible for the skitters to scale walls and perform other feats.

The story reveals some fun facts such as the use of a video camera and radios inside the skitter mask's head so performers like Keith Arbuthnot, who is in the suit, can see at skitter eye level and hear what's happening. We also see a bit of the harness system (different harness, 2nd Mass fans!) that allows Arbuthnot to handle the weight of the alien legs. There are also 12 individual servos inside the alien head to control movement. The factory for the harnesses, which are props that replaced later with a CG version, was inspired by executive producer Steven Spielberg's mention of the 1959 horror flick The Tingler.

Meanwhile, the large mech characters are all CG while the warrior uber-alien overlords are motion-capture with a performer in the effects studio acting out to match the actor's movements on set. Their behavior and movements were inspired by regal soldiers in Game of Thrones and Kurosawa films.

Falling Skies airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

-Aaron Sagers