Arts & Entertainment

ALIENS Egg Chamber Breakdown

James Cameron

Lesson time 13:47 min

James talks through how he captured the feeling from his dream of a room covered in wasps through a scene in Aliens.

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Topics include: Fulfilling the Promise of a Nightmare


[MUSIC PLAYING] - The moment in aliens when Ripley's running through the station and everything's blowing up and it's on fire and she runs through a kind of wall of steam and she finds herself in a room, a big chamber surrounded by alien eggs and looking at the egg laying creature itself, seeing its giant egg sack, seeing the creature itself, and everything goes very quiet. And you're in this kind of a dream within the greater dream of the movie, this kind of very dream-like out of body kind of moment where everything's in slow motion, and it gets very quiet. Even though you know the explosions are going off and all sorts of stuff, you're suddenly in this subjective reality. That came from a dream where I went into a dark room, I walked to the center of the room, and I looked around. And as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized that every square inch of the walls and the ceiling were covered by wasps, and I knew I couldn't make it to the door before they got to me. So I just froze. And I don't remember what happened next doesn't matter, but the point is that idea of suddenly realizing you're in an extremely threatening space and the only thing you can do is freeze and think your way out of it was the nucleus of an idea that then got turned into what ultimately became the first encounter with the alien queen in the egg chamber, which stylistically is an interesting scene, because I wanted to capture that feeling. Know what it is that you're feeling, that you want the audience to feel, and then start talking to people and figuring it out and experimenting around and figuring out how to convey that feeling to your audience. All right so we're jumping way forward in the film now. There at the atmosphere processing station. Everything's blowing up. So it's very loud. I Mean, we're literally spinning the needle in the sound design in the mix. We're in the red. Explosions are happening, and she's running. We're mixing very subjective handheld moving shots with fire, with explosions. Were blowing cork chunks from air mortars, and we're blasting her with shots from CO2 fire extinguishers. And we've got fire gel burning, and we're shaking the camera to suggest that it's a kinetic, very frenzied kind of sequence. We're on a fairly long lens here. It's hand-held, fairly long lens. I can't tell you right now. I don't remember. It might be a 50 or 60 mil. We're handholding it, and we're walking backwards with her. So it's very shaky. We feel that sense of the energy of the whole place coming apart. Sound design has been very loud and concussive and lots of camera shake. And it all fades away, and the only thing that's left is this kind of droning sound and the breath. Now the whole place is still shaking and blowing up, but we've just gone into an altered state of awareness. And the speed ramp-- we used to call it a speed trap. Now you do it as a digital post effect to change the speed. So we've gone from 24 to...

About the Instructor

From The Terminator and Titanic to Avatar, James Cameron has directed some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Now, for the first time in his 40-year career, he opens up about his process. Through behind-the-scenes breakdowns, James shares his approach to developing ideas, storylines, and characters; harnessing technology; and worldbuilding on any budget. Explore the innovation and imagination behind epic moviemaking.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

James Cameron

Academy Award–winning director James Cameron teaches you the tricks of the trade and shares his approach to epic moviemaking on any budget.

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