Design, VFX, Postproduction and Color in Richard Stanley’s ‘Color Out of Space’

The Spanish design and post-production studio USER T38 has worked on the designcolor correction and visual effects (VFX), of ‘Color Out of Space’, the cult director Richard Stanley’s (‘Hardware’) adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story. This film marks Stanley’s return to the big screen after the polemic film ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’. Starring Nicolas Cage, the film -produced by Spectrevision- premieres on January 24, 2020 in USA as a colorist and hallucinogenic nightmare inspired in one of the American writer’s most iconic tales.

The complexity of adapting Lovecraft to the big screen makes this film one of the few that take this risk with the classic writer. John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ or ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ or Netflix’s ‘Annihilation’ (Álex Garland) are some of the features that are greatly inspired on the author but not being dramatizations.

One of the greatest challenges was “reflecting the color that gives name to the feature film, not only with its purest and most indescribable version, but also on the physical aspect when the human beings, flora and fauna change in state and shape” affirms Raúl Monge, associate and designer from the studio.

Despite the tight budget, USER T38 uses all kinds of post-production and design tools to achieve original images and visuals of great technical complexity. Joaquín Gutiérrez, VFX Supervisor states “3D, matte painting, in-house shooting of plates, traditional animation and fractal-based programs have been some of the resources used to achieve a result that even though it’s reflected in different ways, is consistent and coherent with Stanley’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s work”.

All the visual aspects and effects of ‘Color out of Space’ have been praised by the critics after its projection at the Toronto International Film Festival and earning the Best Horror Picture at Fantastic Fest at Austin, TX or the Best Visual Effects Award in the 29 Fancine – Festival de cine fantástico de Málaga.

Here some international reviews about our work:


«Stanley: We started with the FLIR as a jumping-off point, but the approach we arrived at in Color is a combination of several different visual elements. The film’s visual effects team USER T-38 are basically a warehouse in Madrid full of Spanish computer nerds tapping away at their computers. They were able to combine these elements to come up with the sumptuously psychedelic look you can see onscreen. This was the first time I’ve been allowed to get my hands into the digital toy box, so I used every tool at my disposal.»

«Effects house User T-38 meanwhile lays on the hallucinogenic flourishes in a knowingly retro style, and Colin Stetson provides a textured score that Stanley unwisely slaps on with excessive gusto. There’s impressive four-legged support, too, notably from the family dog; alpaca lovers, however, may balk at the SFX indignity foisted on these usually unruffled beasts.»

«Stanley: I tried to do everything practical, because I’m a big fan of it, but we had a company called User T38, which was a bunch of Spanish computer experts behind us who were there to paint over any of the mistakes, to remove rods and wires and things, and to try and improve on it.»


«The film isn’t a major studio production, but the visuals suggest a larger, more expansive FX team at work. Nothing fancy, mind you, but the effects aren’t a distraction. Heck, they’re often the main reason to keep on watching.»


«This is an unrepentantly violent movie with some of the best gore and creature effects since The Thing (1982)—Stanley clearly brushed up on his John Carpenter before beginning production—that’s complimented by eerily beautiful cinematography from concert film alum Steve Annis who uses deep, neon purples and pinks as stand-ins for the eponymous color. It’s a kaleidoscopic phantasm of loss and pain.»


«There are gorgeous, hallucinatory visual effects but Color Out of Space would be a truly upsetting movie to watch on acid.»


«Lovecraft’s usage of creatures is something Stanley honors, worth the film’s horror counterbalance to more enchanting sci-fi production values. As the woods come alive and bolts of lightning strike the glowing rock planted deep into crater soil, Stanley keeps a sense of necessary wonder intact – even when fangs are flashed to assure no such safety.»


«When the wheels come off and the shit starts to hit the fan, Color Out of Space is flat out gorgeous, with characters walking through fields of neon pink flora under a swirling, galactic sky. That the film has a lower budget than, say, Avatar I think works to its advantage; unlike that film, whose glossy CGI started to look garish and dated by the time it hit blu-ray, Color Out of Space has a personal, handmade feel that suits it well.»


«The film looks far more polished than its modest $6 million budget. it’s not fully consistent or narratively clear, but it is a ghoulish pleasure to see Cage ditch his ho-hum dad and dive into the lunatic fringe.»


«Where this movie excels are the visuals and the music. There is some gnarly body horror with high quality practical effects and the third act boasts some of the trippiest psychedelic visuals committed to celluloid. It’s an absolute kaleidoscopic explosion of pure madness and well worth the price of admission.»


«While the narrative is relatively mundane and predictable, Color Out of Space has easily become the most beautiful horror film of the year, a title which it will likely hold for the next 11 months.»


«But the mutated creatures are sufficiently creepy and remind viewers of the movies of the 1980s. I suspect that practical effects were employed because the monsters look very tangible. In one scene, two characters are bonded together in a grotesque manner reminiscent of something from Larry Cohen’s “The Stuff” or David Cronenberg’s “The Fly.”


«He’s also equipped with a team that delivers a vibrant feature, doing well to play into the dazzling visuals created by this external threat.«


«The VFX are great too, with Stanley understandably cutting around the dodgier moments so the full effect is felt without smudgy CGI letting them down.»


«Stanley incorporates magnificent special effects, including some truly hideous creature effects that are both gruesome and beyond words, just as Lovecraft intended it.»

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