How those kick-ass blue aliens from Stargate were created

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

It took a while for Stargate Universe to get around to showing us aliens, but when the series finally did, it didn't take the easy way out using nose ridges or zippered rubber suits—not only were these aliens were not friendly, they were most definitely NOT humanoid. Mark Savela, visual effects supervisor on Stargate Universe, lets us see how those blue aliens were born.

In an interview over at GateWorld, Savela explains the steps that took the alien from a mere idea to the screen for the episode "Space."

1. Production designer James Robbins created 2-D concept art, which is how many of the visual effects begin on the show.

2. Sculptor James Stewart of Image Engine created the maquettes (top) so Brad Wright and Robert Cooper could see how the aliens would look in 3-D. (Stewart had done something like this for the prawns in District 9.)

3. Image Engine provided a range of skin textures (above) from which the final choices were made.

4. Once they'd settled on the look of the aliens, any scene containing one would be shot three times—with the "real" actors and a stand-in wearing a gray suit, with "real" actors without any "aliens" in the scene, and a "clean plate" shot (that is, one in which the camera operators would replicate as closely as possible their camera moves of the previous takes).

5. Those three takes would be blended together to arrive at what we all saw on the screen (below).

The process reminded Savela of an old saying that "in visual effects, you never actually complete a shot, you abandon it."

But he's proud of what was accomplished here: "I think we abandoned those shots at a pretty good point, and I was very pleased with the episode as a whole." However, "If the aliens ever show up again, I would like more time to work on color, integration into scenes, primary animation and secondary animation. It's our goal to try and improve on almost everything that we've done in the past."

For more details on the process, visit GateWorld.