Prometheus VFX Art Director Steven Messing Leverages CINEMA 4D to Create CG Designs

June 19, 2012 12:00 am

Tags: 3D, C4D, Cinema 4D, Maxon, Prometheus

Original 3D Matte Paintings, Story Boards, Set Designs, Costumes, Creatures, Landscapes and Spacecrafts Help Define Visual Tone of Ridley Scott's Sci-Fi Thriller

Concept for the "Head Room Chamber," modeled in CINEMA 4D and painted over in Photoshop

Newbury Park, CA — MAXON, the leading developer of professional 3D modeling, painting, animation and rendering solutions, is pleased to announce that acclaimed digital artist, Steven Messing, utilized the company’s popular CINEMA 4D software application to conceptualize and design complex visual effects shots in the production of Twentieth Century FOX’s Prometheus.

A veteran CINEMA 4D user, Messing, served as Visual Effects Art Director under Prometheus Production Designer Arthur Max. He leveraged the 3D animation software’s speed, agility and intuitive processes to produce several physical set builds as well as CG environments, creatures, costumes and spaceship designs that contributed to the aesthetic and mythological visual tone of the sci-fi film. He also worked through post-production creating matte shots and additional designs under VFX Supervisor, Richard Stammers and VFX Producer, Allen Maris. Messing’s numerous feature film credits include Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Transformers: Dark of the Moon as well as the upcoming film titles, Life of Pi, Star Trek and Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

Juggernaut rising concept - modeled in CINEMA 4D and painted over in Photoshop

Prometheus, directed by Alien and Blade Runner director, Ridley Scott, tells the mythological story of a team of explorers who journey through the universe on the spaceship “Prometheus” to investigate alien life forms. When the scientific team becomes stranded in an alien world, they struggle to survive, fighting a terrifying battle to save their own lives, and the future of the human race. The film opened Friday, June 8, 2012 in the United States.

CINEMA 4D’s real-time capabilities proved particularly invaluable to Messing who was tasked with designing and redefining complex set pieces from the first Alien film to bring a contemporary visual quality that would appeal to today’s filmgoers. This included designing CG models for the Prologue and Juggernaut Alien spacecrafts, the Pilot Chamber set located within the Juggernaut ship and the larger Compound Mound set located on the Alien planet surface.

Concept of the compound mound that the crew encounters upon landing on the planet

“Ridley was very proud of the original Engineer's spaceship (known as the Juggernaut) but he felt it looked primitive by today’s standards,” said Messing. “He wanted to convey a more believable level of scale and detail. He also asked us to give the Pilot’s Chamber set a facelift to include a finer degree of mechanical filigree, and create additional set pieces to support specific story points in the script.”  Messing produced roughly 200 unique images for the film including matte paintings, key-frame storyboards, set designs and visual effects paint-overs of final CG shots.

Messing spent weeks refining CG models that relied extensively on the UV texture displacement maps and intuitive MoGraph module in CINEMA 4D to create the new Pilot’s Chamber set. This included creating scale models of the center dais, desk console, sleeping pods and chamber walls. With fellow designer, Ben Procter, Messing also helped refine the Pilot’s chair that rises from the center dais in the Juggernaut.

Opening shot of primordial earth as revealed from its shadow, modeled, textured and rendered in CINEMA 4D

“We sorted through a ton of Academy archival reference to make the chair as accurate as possible,” explained Messing. “The original draftings had been lost and it was truly a labor of love to recreate this whole set. Using CINEMA 4D remains a top choice software that afforded us a highly flexible solution for previsualizing and experimenting with design elements such as intricate, surface detail textures and patterns that could be presented to Ridley Scott for approvals in a practical timeframe.

“Final designs were then easily displaced and exported into scale-accurate hard geometry, which was delivered as very detailed model sheets for the set drafting and also to world-class visual effects studios including MPC in London and WETA in New Zealand for completion of the final digital set extensions.”

Concept of the Alien birth that used CINEMA 4D for lighting, rendering and texturing

CINEMA 4D was also utilized in the opening shot of Prometheus that gives the audience a glimpse of what appears to be primordial Earth being revealed from shadow. “The planet layers were a combination of clouds, oceans, and continental land masses that all cast shadows as the sun rises, revealing the planet,” explains Messing. “I used CINEMA 4D's Global illumination engine and ray traced area shadows to achieve a realistic layered effect at an accurate scale.” Messing also created a dozen very detailed and dramatic pinnacle formations that were painted over and layered together with atmospheric elements to create interesting compositions detailing the scope and grandeur of the Alien planet’s landscape.

“MAXON continues to be astonished by Steven’s artistic vision and mastery of CINEMA 4D in imagining alternate universes,” said Paul Babb, MAXON US president/CEO. “Art direction defines the look and feel of a film production, so we could not be more pleased that our 3D software played such a meaningful role in Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated Prometheus.”

Steven Messing is currently providing VFX art direction on Gangster Squad and Oz: the Great and Powerful.

Concept of the Pilot Chamber

About MAXON Computer

Headquartered in Friedrichsdorf, Germany, MAXON Computer is a developer of professional 3D modeling, painting, animation and rendering solutions. Its award-winning CINEMA 4D and BodyPaint 3D software products have been used extensively to help create everything from stunning visual effects in top feature films, TV shows and commercials, cutting-edge game cinematics for AAA games, as well for medical illustration, architectural and industrial design applications. MAXON has offices in Germany, USA, United Kingdom, France and Japan. MAXON products are available directly from the web site and its worldwide distribution channel. Specially priced learning editions of the company’s software solutions are also made available to educational institutions. For additional information on MAXON visit



CG images created by Steven Messing, Visual Effects Art Director, on feature film Prometheus
All supporting images are copyright and cannot be copied, printed,
or reproduced in any manner without permission.

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