“The Creator” director and co-writer Gareth Edwards started out making documentaries for the BBC, moving to fiction with 2010’s “Monsters.” From there, he jumped into “Godzilla” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” For “The Creator,” a futuristic sci-fi film depicting AI robots and humans in conflict, he wanted to draw from the best aspects of each filmmaking approach.
That meant staying nimble on shots while relying on a big visual effects team to create the look he wanted, according to ILM visual effects supervisor Jay Cooper.
One of the biggest challenges for Cooper was the destroyer tank. Cooper and the VFX team built it in London with the directive of making it seem larger than it was. Says Cooper, “Each time we made it bigger, Gareth wanted it bigger than what we presented. There was nothing there on set, there’s no physical model. We re-created the water interactions, the mud, the dirt coming off of it and all those things.” It was a much emptier frame.
“We were pulling from anime, ‘Akira’ and Bandai models,” Cooper says about the tank’s design, explaining that Edwards “wanted it to feel real and have this fantastical element to it.” As for the explosions, Cooper says, the pipeline was in place and driven by the cues on the location plates. “They informed so much of what we were doing,” he stresses.
As for finding the ominous sound, that was a happy accident for Supervising Sound Editor and Sound Designer Erik Aadahl. For months he and his team had experimented on finding the right sound for the tank, but nothing seemed right. While driving back from a ski trip, his car hit the median on the freeway. He says, “There’s the serrated pattern on the side of the road to wake up truck drivers if they’re getting dozing off, and the entire car lit up with a sound.”
He jumped out and pulled out his recording gear. “I brought that back into the studio and did pitch variations depending on the speed of the tanks, and we added a little bit of metal Clank for close-ups of the tire treads.”
For the actual scene, re-recording mixer Tom Ozanich says “There were no visual effects. It just said ‘TANK’ on the screen’ so we were doing sound design to a font. We had sounds but no pictures.”
He notes that even though there are guns and explosions, their reference point was to always ground things in reality. “We were always coming back to this quiet starting point instead of letting it get out of control.”