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Firefly F/X Led To Battlestar Galactica

Monday 9 January 2006, by Webmaster

Loni Peristere, visual effects supervisor on the SF movie Serenity, told SCI FI Wire that the movie’s computer-generated visual effects mimicked handheld camera moves and realistic lens effects, which also directly influenced the F/X on SCI FI Channel’s original series Battlestar Galactica.

When Galactica creator Ronald D. Moore and visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel saw the visual effects that had been pioneered for director Joss Whedon and Serenity’s predecessor TV show, Firefly, they came to Peristere. They told him "that’s the way it should be photographed, and please bring those rules to Galactica," Peristere said in an interview. "That is the way this should be shot. And now Galactica has taken on its own set of rules. But it started with appreciation for Firefly and appreciation for work Joss had begun." (Serenity is now available on DVD.)

In Serenity, digital animation of the title spaceship taking off in the rain included raindrops on the camera lens. "When you have a massive ship lifting off, it would be hard for the cameraman to keep the lens clean," said Peristere, who worked with Whedon on both the TV show and movie. "We proposed this as a style to Joss, where the animation would have mounted cameras, depth of field, zoom lenses, all in CG, and he’s like, ’Well, yeah, my whole movie is a documentary. Find the story in the camera design.’ And we went with it."

Peristere’s team from his Zoic Studios created Firefly/Serenity’s jerky digital style, which differs from the static style of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the more fluid F/X of the Star Wars films. The style adds a sense of realism, as if things were shot by real people and not created in computers. "It seemed sort of silly to not apply the cinematic language to digital photography as well," Peristere said.

As an example, in Serenity climactic battle scene, visual-effects designers worked as if they had three camera operators following the title ship. "Our job from an animation standpoint was to create an action that moves through the battle, rather than participating in the battle," Peristere said. "Our pilot is chasing Serenity and has to keep Serenity in frame, even though large chunks of debris and fire is coming toward him." The new Serenity DVD includes features on the creation of the movie’s visual effects.