A photoreal CG rendering of the surface of Mars

The Martian

Framestore was awarded 338 outer-space shots on The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon in the leading actor role. Informed by the heavily-researched detail of Andy Weir’s novel, and with significant input from NASA on genuine contemporary technologies, Framestore revelled in the opportunity to further refine the CG and VFX techniques needed to portray a realistic space setting for the year 2035.

Concept Design
Performance Capture
Effects Simulation
Animation Supervisor
Visual Effects Supervisor
Digital Humans
the martian

Everything we did, we tried to ground in reality. It’s sci-fi, but it’s real – the production design isn’t overtly flashy, and there is minimal design from scratch.
Chris Lawrence
VFX Supervisor

Hermes Takes Flight

The build of the Hermes was a major focus for Framestore’s teams. At 225m in length, the spaceship is the biggest and most complex created by Framestore to date, and is more than double the size of the current International Space Station (ISS). Early pre-visualisation and production design defined its measurements, with consideration for practicalities such as the time it would take the astronauts to move around it, and the space needed to store supplies for a mission as long as Ares III. Everything was grounded in reality; the film may be sci-fi, but the content is true to life, with minimal design from scratch.

an enormous circular space station with copper satellites and an astronaut floating to the left of an open entrance to the space station as thousands of stars twinkle in the background

The Red Planet

Designing an entire planet was another task for Framestore, responsible for the look of Mars throughout. With a key opening shot and various space establishers, it was again important to strike the balance between accuracy and cinematic beauty. Framestore knew that they would use the same technology as for the Earth in Gravity, consisting of a volumetric render of extremely high resolution texture information, combined with dust and atmospheric clouds. The challenge lay in finding adequate reference material for Mars, for which not a great deal of movie-resolution photography existed. The team used a combination of photography and satellite data, in a fairly novel way, to get the detail they needed.

back view of a space shuttle descending onto the red planet mars covering the background

Working with Ridley Scott was a real pleasure. His film-making process, the detailed storyboards and pre-visualisation that he’s known for, made this such an interesting project for us.
Chris Lawrence
VFX Supervisor

The Martian proved a fantastic achievement for Framestore, who enjoyed a collaborative working environment with both the director and his team, and between internal departments. Naturally, it was important for the film to maintain a cinematic beauty, alongside the dedication to accuracy throughout. Cultural reference points were frequently drawn from 2001: Space Odyssey, which set a cinematic benchmark for all as to what space looks like; Director Ridley Scott also drew inspiration from Chesley Bonestell’s sci-fi illustrations from the 1950s/60s, adding a retro space look into the design mix.

The development of new technologies and the triage process brought together artists across departments, making for a fluid and efficient workflow between modellers, trackers, compositors alike. The making of the film allowed Framestore to learn and grow, delivering a super high quality show in the process.

actor matt damon as character matt watney in an astronaut space suit sitting inside of a space shuttle in front of a green screen
actor matt damon as character mark watney holding on and hanging out of a space shuttle. the background is red planet mars

back view of a person watching an astronaut falling out of a space shuttle satellite with a hand pressed against the window


The Martian hits a powerful sweet spot: blending tense action, captivating science, and beautiful 3D cinematography into an emotional character story - Screen Rant

An enthralling and rigorously realistic outer-space survival story - Variety


Production Company
20th Century Studios
Ridley Scott
VFX Supervisor (Framestore)
Production Company
Animation Supervisor
Dale Newton
CG Supervisor
Neil Weatherley
VFX Supervisor (Overall)
Richard Stammers
2D Supervisor
Bronwyn Edwards