The structure of the production enabled the Strauses to centralize production of the film out of Hydraulx, bringing the editorial from previs and cutting as well as the DI processes in house.
"Editorial groups become like little castles," Colin insists of most films. "It's hard to get everyone on the same page." On this film, however, "everyone is under one roof, so it made it so much cleaner and simpler. There's no excuse for editorial and visual effects not getting along perfectly."
Colin estimates Hydraulx did 460 of the estimated 500 vfx shots in the film and CIS doing the remainder, most of which involved ordinary tasks such as wire removal. Efilm did the DI. The vfx crew maxed out for a couple of months at about 110 people -- almost the entire staff of Hydraulx -- and averaged about 70.
The film came in under budget, "which doesn't seem to happen too often around here," Colin says. "It actually freed up money so the studio would let us expand the movie and do the Predator home world and bunch of other cool sequences."
Amazingly, the shop kept itself busy with other shows while making Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, with the Strauses supervising work on the likes of 300, Shooter and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. They accomplished this by relying on their up-and-coming in-house supervisors and a custom data system dubbed Mavis and Lucy that allowed the brothers to track, view and approve dailies from the set during breaks in shooting.
Another seemingly simple change that had a major impact was the installation of a Barco projector at Hydraulx's Santa Monica headquarters that allowed the shots conformed in Smoke to be viewed in realtime, uncompressed at 2K resolutions. "That's really changed how we do our effects shots now," admits Colin. "You put your shot up there, it has to be tight."
It also helps the vfx work stand up better over time, with IMAX presentations and home HD formats becoming increasingly common. "Some (films), they look great on film, and then they do the HD transfer and it's got matte boxes around it and stuff," Colin complains. "(It has) really changed our pipeline quite a bit and really got everyone to make sure everything's buttoned down better."
Thomas J. McLean is a freelance journalist whose articles have appeared in Variety, Below the Line, Animation Magazine and Publishers Weekly. He writes a comicbook blog for Variety.com called Bags and Boards, and is the author of Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen, forthcoming from Sequart.com Books.