Tom Cruise may get his name written large on the poster but the true star of Oblivion (which is available on Blu-Ray and DVD with UltraViolet & Digital Download from the 19 August) is his nippy little run-around, the Bubbleship. We chat to its designer Daniel Simon and reveal some of his fantastic concept art for the striking-looking craft.
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Daniel Simon is a German concept designer, and former Senior designer of Bugatti Automobiles, so he knows a thing or two about creating fast vehicles. In 2007, Simon released his first book, Cosmic Motors , with groundbreaking visuals of photorealistic fantasy vehicles. Consequently, Simon was hired by director Joe Kosinski as Vehicle Concept Designer on Tron Legacy , and later was Lead Vehicle Designer on Captain America: The First Avenger , and worked with Ridley Scott on Prometheus .
The Bubbleship for Oblivion is without a doubt Simon’s most elaborate film work, with over a year of full time development. First sketches started together with Joe Kosinski in 2009, the functional prototype was finished in Spring 2012. Simon not only developed the shape and look, but also ensured the functionality and ergonomics for actor Tom Cruise, who joined various meetings and test of the prototype. Simon works with pen on paper and with state-of-the-art 3D software. Before the ship was built under Simon’s design supervision, he rendered it in a perfectly realistic way as a style guide.
Simon helped to style include the drones and the hand guns.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
How did you first become involved with designing vehicles for Hollywood blockbusters like Oblivion ?
“In fact, it was the Oblivion director Joe Kosinski who got me into Hollywood. In 2008 he invited me by email to design vehicles for his then upcoming project Tron Legacy . He had seen my book Cosmic Motors , a personal collection of vehicle designs for some distant galaxy. I got extremely lucky and was well prepared at the same time. After that, lead vehicle design for Captain America: The First Avenger and Tron Uprising followed, including a short and fascinating collaboration with Ridley Scott’s for Prometheus .”
How many stages are involved between your initial concept and the final vehicle being produced?
“It starts with a meeting, where we look at inspirational images, followed by simple doodles. Quickly, I start blocking my first 2D sketches in 3D, using Autodesk Alias . Functional vehicles are ruled by human scale, so it is crucial from an early stage to offer realistic 3D studies. Those early pitch phases are rather straightforward. Once the movie is green lit, it gets a little chaotic. Schedules kick in, budgets are getting clearer, and designs need to adjust to new scripts rolling in each week. The most troublesome stage is to adjust an approved design to final human ergonomics and construction. On Oblivion , we milled a prototype of the Bubbleshp in foam first, and had Tom Cruise test it. I learned a lot from those tests, for example where to place controls in perfect reach for Tom, how to make his seat comfortable, and how to best get in and out of it.”
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What is your favourite part about working on designs for Hollywood blockbusters?
“Musicians need concert halls. Actors need theaters. Designers need a stage too – Hollywood films are one of the best stages you can wish for: filmed by great directors, animated by the best VFX companies, and then advertised and shown to audiences of all cultures and ages worldwide. Many designers experience the ‘shelve’ syndrome, where frustration kicks in after many unrealised projects, and I know that feeling. Hollywood offers a good ration of your ideas seeing birth and to inspire dreams (or nightmares) for a broad audience.”(opens in new tab)
Tom Cruise spends a lot of time using the vehicles you designed in the film. Did you get much feedback from him on the designs?
“Absolutely. Tom Cruise is a passionate pilot. He was extremely interested in the design process, visited our workshop a few times, tested the ship at various development stages, and gave influential feedback. After all, he had to spend many hours in the custom-designed Bubbleship cockpit during filming, and the holistsic styling of it did not allow for any adjustment mechanisms. He looks very natural in it on camera, the effort really paid off.”(opens in new tab)
How does it feel to see your designs come to life in the finished production?
“I simply feel grateful being able to do what I like do to.”
Oblivion is available on Blu-Ray™ & DVD with UltraViolet & Digital Download from the 19 August.(opens in new tab)