June 18, 2024
#Behind The Scene #VFX Knowledge

How Dune’s VFX and Sound was made

In the arid landscapes of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, where director Denis Villeneuve filmed much of Dune, a unique approach was employed – “sandscreen.” Visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert took an unconventional step by turning his greenscreens brown to match the sandy terrain. This innovation allowed for seamless integration of actors filmed in the desert with any digital elements needed in post-production, enabling the creation of iconic sci-fi creatures, particularly the sandworms.

Sandworms, as described by Frank Herbert in Dune, are colossal creatures residing in the vast deserts of Arrakis, responsible for producing the coveted “spice.” They serve as transportation for the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis. Sandscreen technology allowed for actors to appear as if they were “riding” sandworms on location, enhancing the movie’s natural aesthetics.

Designing the sandworms presented its own challenges. Director Villeneuve and production designer Patrice Vermette meticulously designed the creatures’ size, texture, and movement. The result was a “prehistoric” design, resembling massive, scaly whales. This design was brought to life digitally through a combination of software tools.

The ripples on the desert surface caused by the sandworms, known as “wormsign,” were also digitally created. Simulations of moving sand were generated using Houdini software.

One unique aspect of the sandworms was their audible effects. Fremen could hear the sandworms’ movements, and this sonic aspect was crucial. Sound designers Mark Mangini and Theo Green aimed for a sense of realism, adopting a “fake documentary realism” approach. They used unconventional sounds, like fluttering noises for wormsign, recorded sand movement in Death Valley, and layered various human and animal sounds to simulate the sandworm’s mouth opening.

Dune | Otherworldly Wears | Warner Bros. Entertainment

The result is a hauntingly sparse and organic soundscape, setting Dune apart from conventional sci-fi movies. Denis Villeneuve’s approach emphasized originality and aimed to evoke reverence for the sandworms, making them feel more like gods than monsters, in contrast to typical monster movie tropes.

How Dune’s VFX and Sound was made

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