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A behind-the-scenes look at The Martian’s visual effects

Photo: The Martian, MPC's visual effects reel

Outside of a few space-set scenes, The Martian doesn’t necessarily seem like a special effects heavy movie. Unlike Gravity, which had to send Sandra Bullock to space without actually sending her to space, The Martian mostly features Matt Damon walking around on Mars—an easy enough location to replicate on Earth. And The Martian did spend about seven days filming in the Wadi Rum valley in Jordan, which has previously stood in for Mars on Mission To Mars, Red Planet, and The Last Days On Mars. But it turns out it still takes quite a lot of visual effects work to turn an Earth-desert into a Martian one, and this new demo reel from visual effects company MPC breaks down the crazy amount of detail that went into creating the film’s seamless final look.


Led by visual effects supervisors Richard Stammers and Anders Langlands, MPC had to create everything from Martian tornados to rocket ship launches to accidental explosions. But what’s perhaps even more impressive than those big showy moments are the smaller background details that went into creating a realistic Martian world. Working with both location shots and green screen ones, MPC added mountains, hills, and a red tint to replicate Mars.


The demo reels highlights the sort of effects work that isn’t immediately noticeable, even to an audience trained to spot CGI. For instance, all of those fake Martian locations had to be reflected in the astronauts’ helmets, too. The video is a lovely salute to the integral but often unsung visual effects work that goes into making movies, although those who haven’t gotten around to seeing The Martian yet should be aware that this video contains plot details from the film.

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