Battling The Blob

In Stargate Atlantis’ most visually spectacular episode to date, the Atlantis crew team up with the dreaded Wraith to stop the Replicators purging the Pegasus galaxy of human life. As one would expect, there are mega space battles, epic struggles and huge ships – and one very odd looking object that struck fear into Mark Savela and his team.

“This was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on paper in a script,” Savela says with a laugh, recalling the description of what happens when Fran begins to attract all the Replicator blocks. “‘A giant blob the size of a city’. It’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. There was a lot of thinking. We sat down with a lot of the artists for a long time, just saying ‘Okay, what are we going to make this look like? How are we going to make this look good?’ Because the first fear you have in a shot like that is that it will look cheesy ¬- that’s the thing that you battle with the most right off the bat.”

Stargate Atlantis doesn’t do cheesy, particularly not when it comes to its visual effects, which have earned the show an industry-wide reputation for excellence, and recently helped win it a People’s Choice Award for favorite Sci-Fi show. To get them started, Savela and his team began to list all the basic elements that the ‘blob’ should represent.

“We based it on the [original] Replicators,” explains the visual effects master. “We wanted it chrome-like, we wanted to have it moving. We actually started out very early on with a reference from Spider-Man 2, Doc Ock with his nuclear explosion at the end. So we needed it moving, we needed it textured, we needed it to be chrome to match our Replicators, and we needed to have it somewhat similar to the particles. One of the hardest things was scaling all of this with the particles that are coming in and to actually make them interact with the blob as it is absorbing the particles. And then the blob came about with getting a lot of R[esearch] and D[evelopment] from different artists, and seeing what Martin [Gero] and I liked: what was going to work, and what wasn’t.”

Another challenge that faced the production was where the ‘blob’ was going to be created. Originally, Mark Savela’s in-house team at Bridge Studios was going to handle its construction themselves. This made sense, since the Replicator home world had originally been built by in-house. But in the event, scheduling meant an alternative plan was necessary.

“The in-house department was working on Stargate SG-1: Ark of Truth,” Savela explains. “So we actually had to package up pieces of the city, which is quite massive, and send that over to Atmostphere, who had never worked with [it] before. It was built in city blocks, and they basically had to assemble the city again. It was a lot of extra work.”

Once the team had decided exactly what the coagulated Replicators should look like, the equally difficult task of making the finished element interact with the rest of the VFX scenery began.

“The one shot which I think we were most scared of until the eleventh hour was the ‘Godzilla’ shot, where we saw it on street level and the blob takes out swathes of the buildings. It actually turned out really cool, but we were scared! When we designed that, we came up with a few different camera moves and showed them to Martin. [He] was great in that he had very specific direction in what he wanted for the tentacles. He really wanted it to be akin to a solar flare, so it goes out but it’s immediately attracted back to the surface. Martin had a very specific thing in his mind when he wrote the episode. So it really helped a lot, instead of us just floundering around out there with no direction,” Savela laughs, “just with a giant blob!”

News Article Courtesy of Mgm