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Exclusive: Interview with ELYSIUM Concept Artist Aaron Beck

Check out Elysium concept art by Aaron Beck!

Aaron Beck is a professional concept illustrator at Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand who's worked on Hollywood films like Avatar (2009), District 9 (2009) and the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road (2014)

Check out the rest of the pictures after the jump (click to enlarge).

Great to talk to you Aaron. Which designs for Elysium did you work on?
The primary elements that made it into the film were the exo-frames for Max and Kruger, some weapons (the chemrail, the AK47 mod), tattoos (including all of Max's), and a bunch of armour designs for other characters. But since Weta Workshop was involved from day one, I also worked on earlier design stages for pretty much everything, including the vehicles, robots, and many other elements that didn't make it into the final script.

Director Neill Blomkamp said that he was creating a future that is "not entirely realistic", but represents his attempt to turn theme into visuals. What was the vision of the future the artists were tasked with?
Neill gave us a brief introduction into the 'haves and have-nots' world at the start of the project, which included a different concept for the realm of the super wealthy, and told us right from the start to not get too bogged down with rationalising some of the larger sci-fi ideas, which were there to inform the story and create a world ripe with opportunities for unique action and drama. It was a lot of fun as a designer to have the two worlds of the film to develop, the gritty slums of 'third world earth' and the clean futurism of Elysium.

Production designer Philip Ivey has cited Syd Mead as a "substantial influence for the film." How did Mead's designs influence the vision of the film?

While we never worked directly with Syd on the film, his influence was certainly there the whole time in that Neill really pushed us to refer to his iconic work as the basis for the wealthy and futuristic world of the Elysium space station. Mead's direct involvement later in the project was I believe a dream come true for many!

What was the most challenging design that you faced and how did you overcome it?
Of the designs that made it into the film the most challenging for me personally were the exo-frames for Max and Kruger. I really wanted to show how dynamic and powerful such a device could be, and decided on the use of pistons to help facilitate that. With pistons you get a lot of easily readable visual cues as you see them extend and contract, showing power and articulation in a way that conventional servo motor driven mechanics can not.

But the real challenges for these two designs were in the construction and realisation of the actual physical prop. Because the exo-frames were bolted into the bones of the characters in the film we couldn't use any straps or other traditional methods of securing the prop to the actor. Instead a lightweight mesh top was worn that had silicone skin attached so that where Max's t-shirt was cut to bolt the exo through to his bones you saw it appear to attach directly to the 'skin'. These sorts of issues and also the difficult challenge of getting the exo to be rugged, lightweight, and not impair the actors movements, were solved by the incredible team here at Weta Workshop.

The job they did was amazing, and it was a privilege to be a part of it.

See more of Aaron Beck's work at http://skul4aface.blogspot.com .

Click on the links if you want to see more of Aaron Beck work and Elysiumon my blog.

And make sure you get a copy of Elysium: The Art of the Film* to see more great concept art from the film. I'll have a review of the book up tomorrow.

What do you think of the storyboards? Have you seen Elysium?

Official Elysium Summary
In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), a hard line government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max (Matt Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Production Designer by Philip Ivey
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner

Release date: August 9, 2013 (US), August 21, 2013 (UK)

Official Site:  http://www.elysium2013-movie.com/

© Copyright 2013 Sony Pictures, Alphacore, Media Rights Capital, QED International, TriStar Pictures. All rights reserved

*A small commission from the sale of items from the links goes towards getting concept art books and Blu-Ray discs for me to review.
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Write by: Arek - Monday, August 19, 2013

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