I talked with Jeff Cutter, DP of the new Predator prequel Prey, about dodging bears in the wilds of Calgary, creating the predators’ heat vision and cloaking effects, and reteaming with 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg. Check out the full story over at Filmmaker Magazine.
Here’s an excerpt of Cutter breaking down some of the predator’s classic’s effects.
Filmmaker: I was reading the American Cinematographer story on the original film, and it talks about how much trouble they had with the effects. What was the most difficult effects component of Prey?
Cutter: The most difficult thing to pull off practically was seeing the predator in daytime. The suit was so much less forgiving than when it’s seen at night or, like in the fur trapper battle, when obscured by smoke. In the daytime, it didn’t read nearly as well. We tried to minimize shooting it in daylight; there’s only a couple of sequences. The head was also problematic, because it actually sat on top of [Predator actor Dane DiLiegro’s] head. His face was in the [costume’s] neck. He had to keep his chin down to get the Predator head in the right position.
Filmmaker: Is the Predator’s “body heat vision” just regular footage altered in post?
Cutter: No, we actually used thermal cameras. The VFX supervisor Ryan Cook was really adamant that he wanted to do it that way. What we ended up using was like a 3D rig, where you have two cameras. So, we had a thermal camera [on top] lined up with one of our motion picture cameras so that we could shoot the same image simultaneously. That way we would have both the thermal version of it, then a plate of it in case they needed to do something different in post.
Filmmaker: How adjustable were the thermal cameras? Do they just have one fixed lens?
Cutter: There were multiple lenses. I think we had three choices. There were multiple modes that Ryan would play around with that adjusted the way the heat vision worked. You could dial in different colors and make certain temperatures go certain colors. It’s just reading temperature so there were issues where—this was a problem they also had on the original—stuff would get too hot and everything would show up red and yellow. We had that problem a few times where the ground was just all red and yellow because it was too shot.
Filmmaker: How did you create the cloaking effect?
Cutter: It was done a few different ways. If he didn’t decloak in the scene, he’s in a mocap suit. If he did decloak, he would be in full costume. For example, the first sequence—where he fights the Comanche and a warrior fires an arrow that goes into his leg and the cloaking goes on the fritz—he was in the Predator outfit. We shot that whole sequence with him in the suit, then [the visual effects team] made him disappear and be cloaked for whatever part they wanted.