How ‘Dune’ VFX and Sound Teams Make Sandworms Out of Scratch

They call it that “Sandscreen.” In the deserts of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, where director Denis Villeneuve shot the majority Dune, all vary in color to beige. To match this, visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert did something he had never done before: made his greenscreens brown. Sandscreen explains that Villeneuve can get all of his beauty shots in the desert and Lambert can quickly add whatever he needs to post-production. All he had to do was change the color of the sand for any building, background, or animal he wanted. It allowed each shot to look as natural as possible-and also allowed them to create one of the most imaginative creatures in sci-fi.

We’re talking about sandworms, of course. As described by Frank Herbert in Dune, sandworms are a large number of creatures that inhabit the many sands of Arrakis and produce “spice” – the most valuable ingredient in the known universe. For the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, they also served as transportation. The Fremen hook penetrates their scaly exteriors and is erected on top of it as they penetrate the desert. Sandscreen explains that Lambert can be a location artist “riding” a sandworm — essentially a platform in a movable gimbal covered in beige — and then add the wate below him with CGI. Lambert was given the ability to create a seamless VFX shot (there are over 2,000 of those in Dune), and Villeneuve’s ability to have a movie look as natural as possible. “I’m never a supervisor to say to Denis,‘ Look, if we just made it all blue screen … ’” Lambert said. “I don’t work that specific way.”

Designing the worms themselves is still a good work. Villeneuve began work Dune right after he was done Blade Runner 2049 in 2017. “I need a lot of time, and [the studio] gave me time, “Villeneuve said.” When we started the prep, everything was mostly designed, the art concepts were finished. “Working with production designer Patrice Vermette, he spent several months trying that the wate’s plot is correct – their size, their fabric, the energy they need to get through many tons of sand.

“Obviously, there’s a huge fan base Dune that if you go to the internet – Google, like, ‘Dune sandworm ‘ – there are many different versions, ”said Vermette. “Ug Dune has been an inspiration for many lovers of science fiction and the movies that have been made. In Star Wars there is a sandworm. We wanted to do something original, and scary. ”

The design of the sandworm they found was what Lambert called “prehistoric.” It is light and covered in scales and can be seen to be hundreds of feet long. One of the best templates is the whale. Large sandworms, hollow maw, where in front of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), full of whales; movements under the surface must be cetacean. Lambert’s team used all of these ideas when digitally making the wates, placing its contents. Clarisse, they are motivated to use sparrow, and after composing each shot on Nuke.

Then there’s the reason for naming the worm: the sand. The creatures themselves get some cash withdrawals Dune, but for many hours they were seen in their movements underground. Those ripples over the hills, which Herbert called “wormign, ”Also needs to be created digitally. If he was in a desert location, Lambert would like to get some idea of ​​how to detect the amount of sand displacement that wates can cause by placing explosives underground, ”but in the Middle East it’s probably not the best thing to do that. ” Instead, he created a simulation of the movement of the sand used Houdini software, based on most water movements.

Which brings us to something different about sandworms: their audible effects. In addition to shaking the ground, Fremen in the Arrakis desert-and members of the cinema audience-had to hear the movement of a wate. Sandworms also follow underground sounds, almost like sonar (also: whales), causing Fremen to spin the creatures using “thumpers” that constantly hit the surface of the ground. This is explained DuneAnimals have to have their own noises – a work that fell to the sound group of Mark Mangini and Theo Green. The pair worked with Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049 and in that process came a philosophy that was brought to Dune: “All of these sounds have to feel like they live in a universe we recognize,” Mangini said. Villeneuve is “very interested in everything we hear that feels organic or sound.”

To practice that philosophy, they got another new concept: fake documentary realism, or short FDR. The idea is that Dune should sound like a documentary made by a crew sent to Arrakis. Not so much “sound design-y,” Green says. So for the sandworms, the pair defied monster film clichés and made a “fluttery” sound for wormign – something that meant danger at a distance. They took hydrophones – underwater microphones – to Death Valley and recorded the sound of sand moving. For the sound of opening the wate’s mouth, they created a “gunk-gunk-gunk” tone by placing multiple processes on human and animal sounds. (The pair hesitates to give examples. “I don’t think there’s anything more wild,” Mangini said.) The sandworm’s move also uses sounds of trembling tree bark and spinning grapes. . The noise it makes when it swallows a spice harvesting machine? That’s Mangini with a mic in his mouth sucking in a lot of air.

The result is something hauntingly sparse, like Arrakis himself. It’s also very different from the whiz-bang in most sci-fi movies. “One thing I’ve noticed about Denis is that he’s never given anything from another film as a reference,” Green said. “He uses other movies as examples of what not to do,” Mangini added. Then, sandworms are not like any monsters in the movies. More than fear, Villeneuve wants people to respect worms when they see them on screen, telling Mangini to be “more god than Godzilla.”

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