China Focus: China's sci-fi blockbuster boosted by industrial design, manufacturing
GUANGZHOU, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of cutting-edge equipment, including intelligent quantum computers 550A and 550C, anti-drone guns, nuclear weapon keys, and triggers, pile up in Yang Xu's room. These are not lethal weapons but full-scale models that starred in China's latest sci-fi blockbuster, The Wandering Earth II.
Since being released on Jan. 22, the Chinese sci-fi action-adventure film has so far earned a box office of over 3.4 billion yuan (about 500 million U.S. dollars). Over 50 million viewers went to theaters for this phenomenon movie, according to box office tracker Maoyan.
The movie was attractive for its imaginative plot and its exquisite props. In Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, designer Yang Xu and his team created over 1,000 props for the movie.
The designing and manufacturing of necessary props for sci-fi films are supported by complete, complex, and precise industrial processes, said Yang. Starting with conceptual design and structural modeling, gadgets and gizmos will go through steps including numerical control programming, machining, post-polishing and spray-painting, laser carving, and surface treatment.
Yang previously worked to design conceptual cars and then began to set foot in the film industry. In 2020, he moved from Beijing to Shenzhen, set up his studio and factory, and focused on conceptual design and prop production for the films.
As The Wandering Earth II started shooting in late 2021, Yang devoted himself to designing and producing props for the movie.
The schedule was tight for the prop production team. It only took 20 days for Yang and his team to bring the anti-drone guns from a blueprint to the screen.
All part and service suppliers for the movie props are within 10 km of the studio in Shenzhen, giving the team much confidence and ensuring that the manufacturing process and product quality are controllable.
The computer numerical-control method was applied in manufacturing to ensure the props look more realistic.
Yang and his team worked meticulously to ensure the triggers function well, the batteries could be removed and loaded, the Picatinny rails were installed correctly, and even the non-slip pads were involved.
Multiple types of computer numerical control tools were applied to better display the texture of the irregular metal shell of the intelligent quantum computer 550A.
"Devils are in the details," said Yang.
High-tech companies from many parts of the country offered various props for the movie. The drivable and deformable operation machines were produced by the Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co., Ltd. in Jiangsu Province. The exoskeleton robots were made in Shanghai. Cameras with AI functions came from Zhejiang Province.
The exoskeleton robots cast in the movie were offered by ULS Robotics. By offering extra power to the wearer's waist, they helped the actors lift a bag of sand of 30 kg without much effort.
Many of the props also have wider market potential. Guo Fan, director of The Wandering Earth II, said that some specific props in the movie reached commercial-use levels.
Yang is now planning to step into the peripheral products of sci-fi films. He is determined to utilize industrial manufacturing power to create more realistic props and products.