One of the best things about Andor is that it not Feel like “a galaxy far, far away”. Even more than the cinematic stepping stone, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Disney+ show’s concerns feel more down-to-earth and relatable than most of the dynastic, force-driven Star Wars saga. Instead, it’s about how the average citizen and the ordinary people around them become radicalized. It is the rare “Star Wars” story that shows how the rule of the Empire negatively affects the everyday lives of non-magical humans. So while there are spectacular sci-fi moments — giant holograms and TIE fighter chases, as well as deadly droids and space prisons — Andor’s Emmy-nominated visual effects team’s triumph lies in how such otherworldly places have a down-to-earth feel gives feeling.
“This show was primarily about environments where we took existing photographs and either augmented or complemented them,” says Scott Pritchard, visual effects supervisor. “We shot a lot London’s Barkwhich is really interesting Brutalist architecture A neighborhood with a very strong architectural style, where there are many columns and balconies that protrude and create interesting shapes.
“So we cut holes in some of these buildings [virtually] and then expanded to improve the environment Coruscant, this is this endless city planet. Through some of these holes you may be able to see another building a mile away. You can see the horizon, but the horizon is just more buildings.”
In the Star Wars prequel films, the galactic capital of Coruscant felt amazing (and especially green in the early days of virtual environments). In “Andor” it feels like a material place where people live and work, and with buildings that have weight and substance.
Pritchard says, “We wanted full immersion in the city. We didn’t want big aerial shots, like, “Meanwhile on Coruscant,” you know, big helicopter shots. Most things were shot from the ground as if the cameraman had the camera on his shoulder and was right there. We wanted to move a little bit away from the prequels, which were kind of like that high Science fiction, you know, 1950s, kind of “Metropolis” style. We went more towards art deco Stone materials you might see in New York. Our buildings were made of various stone materials but did not use metals for embellishment. And then use glass as a nice reflective surface.
“We came up with the idea of doing a reflection shot for a while just to follow along [a luxury flying car] I hover over the reflection and see it warp and shake, then pan it into place. It took a long time to feel natural. Even before we started rendering, it took a long time to get the camera and animation right so that it felt right as an idea and not too forced. But yeah, I’m really happy with this recording.”
The Disney+ “Star Wars” series “Andor” manages to make alien planets look completely real. The VFX team was nominated for a 2023 Emmy for their deceptively detailed and imaginative work. (Courtesy of Andor, PGM, Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic)
This extreme attention to detail is present throughout the series and reflects that Andor is a product of the fusion of visual effects, production design and cinematography in this era of filmmaking.
“Working with the cinematography and plate photography, we were very fortunate to have something great [directors of photography] “On the show he captured beautiful footage in some fantastic locations around London and up in Scotland,” he says, noting that the choice of locations for the production was limited due to the pandemic. “Once you have the material to work with, you’re off to a good start when it comes to making something feel grounded.
“We went there Lanzaroteone of the Canary Islands to take some helicopter shots photogrammetry, Images of some volcanic areas in the area. They have this amazing black and red bottom that feels pretty out of this world too. And that served as the basis for the planet Ferrix we see that in the first half.
“When you break it down, you see the details of the wireframe models and all the work that goes into the shading and the materials by all these different artists, and then the composition, how it all fits together – all the visual and photographic elements that make it happen that it looks like it was shot with a single camera.”
Many of those working on Andor – including Pritchard – are true Star Wars geeks who trace their interest in filmmaking to those films. As such, they couldn’t help but add a few Easter eggs here and there. For example, in the series’ startling reveal at the end of the season, which involved a connection to the Death Star, Pritchard and co. embedded some homages.
“Where you see the little robots placing the ‘product’ on the surface of the Death Star, you see a wall at the very back of the frame. And the wall has these shapes that are identical to the shapes of the moat on A New Hope,” he says of something that one of the team’s artists incorporated himself. “It’s a beautiful detail that shows the nature of the passion [Industrial Light & Magic] Artists contribute their work.
“And that Arrestor Cruiser in high orbit was an absolute treat. And not just because the Arrestor Cruiser was an original design by [one of the franchise’s first concept artists] called Colin Cantwell, who designed the first Millennium Falcon and the first TIE fighter in addition to the first X-wing. It was May last year, Colin passed away very tragically. So it was a real treat and a real honor to finally bring his design to life and give him a starring role in the series. If you listen to the audio, it says “Arrestor Cruiser, Cantwell Class”. ”