Creating The Future For The Oblivion Movie

Creating The Future For The Oblivion Movie

The Creators Project gets a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a big-budget science fiction film.

Ryan Gerhardt
  • 11 june 2013

Gone are the days of lame special effects. That is, until today’s amazing tech seems outdated and cheesy compared to the wonders that will dazzle movie-goers a decade from now. But how do filmmakers do it? What goes into making a science-fiction-fantasy-epic look so real?

The Creators Project shed some light on this topic by looking at Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman’s blockbuster, Oblivion.

The Creators Project, which is a partnership between Intel and VICE that provides content covering the use of new technological innovations in music, art, film, and design, was given an exclusive look at the graphics and design elements that make Oblivion a visual treat.

‘There are things that you need to depict on screen that can never be built,’ said Joseph Kosinski, the director of Oblivion. But rather than doing the whole film in CGI and inserting most of the elements through post-production, Kosinski and the Oblivion team, led by design director Bradley Munkowitz and lead graphics animator David Lewandowski, used new graphics and filming techniques to give the shots a more real-life feel.

The main way to give a true-to-life feel is with more in-camera shots. To do this, the team used some standard techniques such as building some aspects (the bubble ship) and shooting in exotic locations (such as a helicopter-accessible only mountain in Iceland).


To avoid using a blue-screen for the surroundings of the command post (which is floating in the air), the team collected cloudscapes shot on a mountain in Hawaii, and then front-projected them into the scene. They also made much greater use of user interface (UI) work, as opposed to 3D holograms.

UI work is basically all circles, dots, and lines that gets laid out on a grid. The grid system provides enough structure that complex graphics elements can easily be blended onscreen, as opposed to during post-production. This means that actors can interact onscreen with the graphics that are played-back for them on the large interface screens (that resemble a giant touchscreen), giving a more real look.

Kosinski and the Oblivion team, many of whom had worked together on Kosinski’s first film Tron, were hoping that by providing a more real-life experience, the audience could more fully explore their own relationship with technology. It looks like you’ll have to see it to find out.

Oblivion was released on April 19, and stars Cruise and Freeman alongside Olga Kurylenko. Check out The Creators Project exclusive below, as well as the film’s trailer.


The Creators Project

Images and trailer via Universal Pictures

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