For Netflix movie, The Spaceman, starring Adam Sandler, MPC created stunning space environments and fx simulations and character work.

Six months into a solitary research mission to the edge of the solar system, an astronaut, Jakub (Adam Sandler), realizes that the marriage he left behind might not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth. Desperate to fix things with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), he is helped by a mysterious creature from the beginning of time he finds hiding in the bowels of his ship. Hanuš (voiced by Paul Dano) works with Jakub to make sense of what went wrong before it is too late.

Working closely with Director Johan Renck and Production VFX Supervisor Matt Sloan from the preproduction stages through to final VFX, MPC delivered over 800 shots for Spaceman. “As the sole vendor on Spaceman, we had the freedom and responsibility to develop these memorable environments and characters.” said VFX Supervisor Craig Calvert. “The majority of shots we created were for the looming Chopra dust cloud, and all interactions within, and the stoic arachnid creature Hanuš. Additionally, we crafted the unsettled feel of all the memory shots that Adam Sandler’s character Jakub is struggling to reconcile.”

MPC’s Art Department, led by Art Director Leandre Lagrange, began working with director Johan Renck in 2020, to design the Chopra cloud, a fictional space entity with magical particles which trigger Jakub’s memories. “Our main challenge was to define the look of the Chopra cloud,” said Lagrange. We provided mood boards and concepts based on Johan’s vision and iterated on the design from there. The particles were to react to Jakub’s thoughts, so we experimented with several approaches before landing on the right one.” MPC ‘s artists conceptualized the look of the Chopra Cloud as seen from the ground on Earth, as well the view of the cloud up close as the protagonist’s spacecraft approaches it. “We designed the sequence in which Jakub enters the heart of the Chopra cloud, floating through an ethereal, all-encompassing cloud of dazzling, undulating particles, to ‘The Beginning'” continues Lagrange. “Our challenge was to visually communicate that this was the place where everything began. Johan wanted ‘The Beginning’ to react like a sound visualizer, vibrating with a beat. We had to figure out how to render the ethereal design and make it animate when it reacts to sound and make it clear how the animation relates to the sound.”

Meanwhile MPC’s Previs team, led by Previs Supervisor Isaac Hingley worked on multiple sequences in pre-production to help block out and choreograph the action between Jakub and Hanus inside the space station.  After principle photography wrapped, Postvis Supervisor Herman Lee joined the team to help breath life into the edit and fill out the environments as well as giving Hanus a preliminary performance in order to shape the edit.  Herman’s team animated on the Hanus rig provided by our layout department so that our keyframes could travel naturally into the MPC pipeline.

The Environment team at MPC crafted multiple settings for the film, incorporating expansive simulated cloud renders and employing DMP enhancements for the external clouds. A notable achievement was the creation of a cyclorama capable of accommodating active cameras with parallax. The team played a crucial role in dissecting design intricacies and meticulously crafting images that truly embodied the director’s vision. For the final act of the film, MPC was required to create the interior of the Chopra cloud which comprised of visualizing “every sound in the universe”. This process was complex for the MPC FX department in terms of the initial development, through to the final shot execution from both a creative and technological perspective.

MPC’s Character team were tasked with creating Hanuš, an eight-legged space spider voiced by Paul Dano. Artists drew inspiration from tarantulas to create this giant full CG character. MPC’s animation team were guided by the director to find the subtly within the emotional performance and to cement his presence in scenes shared with Jakub. VFX Supervisor Craig Calvert said “Hanus was a fantastic character to bring to life! Voiced by Paul Dano, Hanus has a very soft, measured cadence to his speech and retaining the subtleties of that performance was key to the character’s success. Paul’s facial and voice performance was captured, and the animation teams designed all the expressions, mandible clicks, and other non-human responses to mirror the intent of Paul’s delivery.”

MPC created all of the space environments in the movie, as well as the Jan Hus1 space shuttle and digital doubles of Jakub in his spacesuit for exterior shots.

Jon Creamer

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