March 21, 2011

Stunning Visual Effects in "World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles"

In Columbia Pictures' sci-fi action-thriller “World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles,” the City of Angels is destroyed by unknown, alien forces… and visual effeccts supervisor Everett Burrell.

Preparing to do his worst, Burrell flew in a helicopter between San Diego and Los Angeles, taking digital photos of the southland – wide shots that would become the background plates for the film for Burrell to use as a tool of his trade. “Once [director] Jonathan Liebesman had chosen the shots he liked, we could add smoke, fire, and city destruction,” Burrell explains.

But making the destruction was just the beginning – Burrell and his team were also responsible for creating the destroyers. Liebesman collaborated with a team of artists to create the aliens and bring his vision to life. “While I had a very clear idea of what I wanted for the look of the aliens, the collaboration between concept artists and our post-production team ensured the aliens became far more complex and fascinating creatures than I could have ever imagined,” says the director.

“It’s always difficult to get the design down because there are endless possibilities,” says Burrell. Of course, when designing an alien, even the sky isn’t the limit: anything is possible. Where to begin? And how do you know when you’re done? “We went through a lot of different concepts with Jonathan to get the alien right – to get what he envisioned. This is mainly due to the fact that it was such a different type of thing we were going for. We wanted ours to be very different, like nothing anyone’s ever seen before. CGI allowed us to tinker with the look all through production, until he was completely satisfied.”

CGI can do a lot of things, but sometimes, an effect is best achieved with a physical prop. This was true for the alien autopsy sequence, in which the Marines see up close what the aliens are made of and figure out how they can stop them. “I come from creature effects, makeup effects,” says Burrell. “Our full-scale alien really is the best way to get the effect when it has to interact with the actors closely. The autopsy alien is about eight feet tall, with a 20-foot-long tentacle coming out of its leg.”

For the aliens’ aircraft, the design began with a happy accident. “Jonathan was playing around with the visual effects and, by mistake, there was a large ship with a separate piece broken off,” says Burrell. They liked that idea – and in the end, the UFO became a ship composed of nine smaller drones – “like a pizza cut into slices,” Burrell explains. “They’ll destroy the world in thirty minutes or less or your money back.”

Now open across the Philippines, “World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit for trailers, exclusive content and free downloads. Like us at and join our fan contests.

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