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Gary Hutzel GALACTICA.TV interview
Saturday, 27 October 2007

Noah Kadner had the chance to talk to Gary Hutzel, visual effects supervisor on the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. He talks about the digitalization of original Cylons, Raiders and Vipers for the webisodes and the upcoming Battlestar Galactica movie "Razor" and he granted us the very first exclusive images of his work. His credits as supervisor also include Spy Kids, Red Planet, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What lead to the decision to feature Cylon Raiders and Centurion designs from the 1970s version of Battlestar Galactica?

We're going back 40 years to the original Cylon war. We wanted to create a Centurion that would be like the original but be completely robotic. There was never a discussion about putting guys in suits. Pierre Drolet, our in house modeler designed that. Richard Livingston did illustrations for us and did a great job.

 

Original and New Cylon

Original and New Cylon

 

 

Original Cylon

Original Cylon

 

Razor was originally written with a different structure and it was quite complex in the way that it moved through the story. You'd move back and forward in time. One of our premises was that we wanted to reveal the original series material as dramatically as possible. The old-style Raiders were planned to be first seen outside the window of an apartment building that was being attacked. We had designed a sequence as part of Starbuck's first contact.

When we first started pre-visualizing the sequence, we said, let's make it a cat-and-mouse game and then reveal the original Centurion on the deck below. That was going to be in the second half of the show but it ended up actually being the first reveal completely by default. The reveal of the Raider outside the window went away.

 

Original Cylons

Original Cylons

 

Was there a lot of research required to model the old ships?

It was actually fairly simple, there's tons and tons of reference material out there. The Centurions were completely redesigned. We had a ground soldier and a pilot. The ground soldier was stockier and had a lot more ammo and the pilots were lighter weight with more chrome and reflectivity.

In terms of the Basestar and the Raider, we altered the Raider for a bit more of an aggressive look. We added bigger gun arrays and different engines to make it more manageable for some of the pieces of business we had to do. The Basestar was identical to the original series version. Originally there was not a plan to do original series Basestars, just Raiders. Artist Rob Bonchune offered to build the Basestars in his own spare time.

 

Original ground soldier Cylon and pilot Cylon

Original ground soldier Cylon and pilot Cylon

 

 

Original Raiders and Basestar (last by Rob Bonchune)

Original Raiders and Basestar (last by Rob Bonchune)

 

Are there any hidden easter eggs that viewers should look out for?

No, nothing like an Enterprise flying in the back of a shot! But one of the fun things we did with the original Centurions had to do with their chromed, highly reflective look. In the scene where Adama is beating a Centurion, you can clearly see his reflection and the little girl's.

The ships of Galactica's fleet are for the most part duplicates of the original series' fleet. The interesting thing that we set out to do originally. Michael Rymer as the director this would be great if we used the original series ships to encourage fans to check out the show. We did exactly match many of them. The Pegasus has its own fleet in Razor, it's an all new fleet that is not related to the original series.

 

Special effects supervisor Gary Hutzel and Edward James Olmos

Special effects supervisor Gary Hutzel and Edward James Olmos

 

 

Original Raiders in a big attack on the Battlestar

Original Raiders in a big attack on the Battlestar

 

In terms of special features, you have to realize this was a very large show for us. We did half a season's worth of visual effects work in a quarter of the time. It's a full two-hour show, including all of the special expanded scenes. There's entire action sequences just for the DVD. We took the huge opening sequence with Young Adama, that was originally written as straightforward battle. This was our chance to see the original series Raiders and Cylons, so we altered it to include a lot of extra shots. There's quite a good value to the DVD, it will be quite different from what airs on the SciFi Channel.

 

Original Raider and Viper in a dogfight

Original Raider and Viper in a dogfight

 

How would you compare the Cylons in the re-imagined show to the original?

The lore of this show is different. Our story is simply that the Cylons were created by us as machines of war and they turned against us. Eventually we had a war with them and then we had a truce for 40 years. They spent that time only to build up their battle capability to destroy, as part of their original programming. In the original series, lizard people built the Cylons to come and kill the humans.

In effect, we've gone more retro. We've gone back to an earlier time where computers are not networked, we use antiquated technology. You can't really say that the original storyline blends with our show but we have stolen some of their best elements. The original Centurions were powerful and intense and not as much the brute force of our re-imagined ones.

 

Original Cylon pilots in the 1978 series

Original Cylon pilots in the 1978 series

 

In terms of animation style, we did try and say ‘hey it's a guy' in a suit with the older style Centurions. So their motions are a bit more human. We had a certain palette. In this show, the Centurions are written as background. They're written as "the Centurions open fire," as opposed to "Centurion carefully considers the scene and chooses a target." We got quite a bit of inflection into that original Centurion design. That's more difficult to do with the modern Centurions.

 

Original Cylon pilots

Original Cylon pilots

 

Will we see the original ships and Centurions again?

It's something we've talked about with the writers. They haven't had a chance to see that this design is really effective because it takes so long to complete the effects shots. At this point, every script is already written up to episode 13. The last half of the season is jam-packed for the storytelling, so my guess is that we're not going to see more of the original Centurions. Once the writers see Razor, I think they'll wish they had used these characters more.

What's next for the Galactica effects team?

We just finished all of the touchups on Razor, it's been a 7-day/24 hour thing. Everything is done in-house. We've built a nice visual effects facility at the Universal lot. It would be silly not to take advantage of that and move them onto another show. You never know what will go when it's time for us to move onto the next thing.

 

Special Effects Supervisor Gary Hutzel

Special Effects Supervisor Gary Hutzel

 

A year ago they were talking about Caprica and we had discussions with the producers. But at this point that has not moved. I talked with Ron Moore, there's no spin off currently planned for Galactica which is a shame for all of us who love the show.

I think people will look back in fondness that we went out with a huge bang. It's such a high quality show we should go out while we're still in good form. We know that we could do another show and we have a huge talent pool. From all of the actors to everyone behind the scenes we have a great bunch of people. It's a shame to see everyone go.

 

Noah Kadner writes for American Cinematographer and HD Video Pro magazine in addition to being a BSG fan. He also offers post-production training to indie filmmakers at http://www.callboxlive.com/

Images courtesy of NBC/Universal, all rights reserved. Special thanks to Lana Kim and David Takemura.

 
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