65 Things to Know About Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION From Our Set Visit

     June 17, 2014


The first thing you should know about visiting the set of a Michael Bay movie, like say Transformers: Age of Extinction, is that it’s exactly how you think it would be.  It’s explosive, it’s deafening, it’s intense, all in an environment of controlled chaos, and above all, it’s fun.  So much fun.  From witnessing Bay in action as the general in charge of 200-some odd crew members, to watching star Mark Wahlberg flit between handling giant alien grenades in a scene and talking to our small group of reporters on the sideline, to the epic finale of a massive stunt sequence that ended the day with a multi-car crash, pyrotechnics, and the wave of relief that followed when the day-long preparation paid off without a hitch. If the movie is even half as fun as this set visit was, it will be a huge hit with audiences all around the world.

That first thing you should know was a bonus; I’ve got 65 more after the jump.  During our set visit, our group got to see all the points of view of the production from the director, to the producers, to the stars themselves.  We also got to chat with the VFX supervisor, stunt coordinator, and transportation coordinator in charge of all of those beautiful vehicles.  So hit the jump to check out 65 “Things to Know” about our Transformers: Age of Extinction set visit before the film opens on June 27th.

transformers-age-of-extinction-set-visit65 Things to Know:

  • Mark Wahlberg pulled from his real-life experience as a father in order to further develop his character.
  • The day of our set visit was day 43 of production, which wasn’t even half-way through their shooting schedule.
  • Spoiler:The human hero characters get ahold of an alien ship that lets them fly from the U.S. to Hong Kong is just under three minutes.
  • Reflecting on his role in Planet of the Apes, Wahlberg says he “could never really connect to it.”
  • Wahlberg isn’t shy about admitting he’s “too old to be a thrill-seeker now” and is happy to let his stunt people do their job.
  • Wahlberg joked with Bay about singing and rapping for the movie’s title track.
  • While prepping the day’s big action scene, a lot of on-lookers and paparazzi had gathered around the set. Bay specifically called out, jokingly, a rooftop full of people capturing the scene on video. He pulled out his megaphone and said, “Enjoy the show because I’m going to edit you out of my movie!”
  • According to Bay, this is the first movie to use the new 4K IMAX 3D cameras, valued at $1 million apiece.
  • Bay’s still a film fan at heart, but because the processing labs are going out of business, he says that film technology is “sadly, over.”
  • When visiting the Transformers ride at Universal Studios in Singapore, Bay saw a three-hour line full of families and kids; this was the moment that sparked his interest in returning for another movie. He wanted to do it right rather than seeing it turned over to someone else, someone less experienced, and resulting in a lower quality movie.
  • transformers-4-age-of-extinction-michael-bay-set-photoBay redesigned the robots from the ground up. Fan-favorite characters are still easily recognizable, but they have all new designs from top to bottom.
  • Along with the new redesigns, the robots in this movie “have more character.”
  • Bay seems particularly fond of Hound, a new Autobot character that’s armed with “every gun known to mankind” and fights “down to the very, very, very last round of every gun, all the way down to a little Swiss Army Knife.”
  • This is a fun but more serious take where the threat of death is very real.
  • Shia LaBeouf’s character isn’t in the script, but is referenced in some way.
  • This film takes place three years after the Battle of Chicago.
  • Car companies would literally fly their flashiest vehicle models to Bay’s office in order to secure a place in the movie.
  • Bay says that “we learn a lot more about the Transformer world in this one.”
  • He compares the Transformers redesign to Batman getting a new suit in each movie.
  • Bay is proud of shooting this film in IMAX 3D and asserts that it’s far better than any post-converted movie.
  • Stanley Tucci’s character was responsible for reverse-engineering some of the Transformers pieces that were gathered up after the Battle of Chicago.
  • The million-dollar 4K IMAX 3D camera was mounted to the top of a $50,000+ Porsche Cayenne.
  • Bay promises “a big scene in Chicago. A big scene.”
  • Bay naps during production in order to stay fresh and keep his mind calm between scenes.
  • transformers-4-age-of-extinction-bay-wahlberg-set-photoThe Hong Kong location allowed Bay to develop a vertical Parkour sequence that follows characters down the side of an apartment tenement.
  • The protective father character was specifically tailored to Wahlberg.
  • Bay would have cast Dwayne Johnson in the film, but the schedules didn’t line up.
  • Bay is considering a smaller film after this, perhaps centering on the poaching of wild African elephants.
  • Rather than re-engineer the story or shoot scenes specifically for a Chinese audience, Bay envisioned sequences of the movie taking place in Hong Kong from the outset.
  • The movie takes place in Chicago, mainland China, and Hong Kong.
  • The production shot in Washington state; Monument Valley; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Hong Kong; and mainland China.
  • The “human triangle” of Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, and Nicola Peltz’s character provides the core relationship and unifying center of the film.
  • This isn’t a reboot or an origin story; it’s a continuation of the world following the Battle of Chicago.
  • This time around, the Transformers are a little more wary about trusting humans, since they were abandoned and sent into outer space in the last film.
  • A lot of character ideas come from the production team’s meeting with Hasbro; The Fallen is a great example of characters they stumbled across while at the toy company.
  • Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says that this film has more in common with the original Transformers than any of the other films in the series.
  • There may be a few more historical references in this film, much like the Mars and moon landings referenced in previous movies.
  • transformers-4-age-of-extinction-bay-peltz-set-photoThis movie will feature multiple threats to the Autobots and human heroes, including those posed by human villains.
  • Di Bonaventura and Bay have always listened to the fans and audiences more than movie critics; this movie will be no different.
  • Di Bonaventura shared a quintessential Michael Bay story from the first Transformers. When the crew arrived in Cairo to shoot the Pyramids, they were told their permits had been revoked. Bay covertly assembled his team and shot them anyway.
  • Di Bonaventura also says that Bay’s pace during production really pumps in the adrenaline, so much so that he finds himself bored with the pace of other movies that he works on.
  • The American military will play a much smaller role in this film.
  • The original Bumblebee was a GTO frame which had a Camaro body kit attached to it.
  • The Oshkosh military vehicle that turns into Hound is so big that a motor home cover can’t completely cover it.
  • The new Camaro and Corvette are both concept vehicles that are modified with after-market parts.
  • Galvatron will transform into a right-hand drive Freightliner.
  • Hong Kong doesn’t allow outsider military vehicles to be delivered by boat, so the Oshkosh must be flown in via the 747 Antonov, a modified Russian cargo plane that opens at the nose.
  • This film will feature more of a rural setting as a change of pace from the urban environments of the past three films.
  • transformers-4-mark-wahlberg-michael-bayMichael Bay’s department heads have a combined total experience of 850 years in the film industry.
  • The Detroit-based Hong Kong set took 16 weeks to build from start to finish.
  • Depending on the scene, there are always anywhere from four to ten cameras running during at any given time.
  • Di Bonaventura and Bryce call Bay “peerless” for his ability to shoot scenes in a way that accommodates the CG elements that will be added later, and “underestimated” for just how funny he really is.
  • One of the big action sequences involves a ferry, helicopters, cars, and other vehicles amidst heavy artillery action in a nighttime scene.
  • As great an advantage it is to be able to shoot in 2D, IMAX, and IMAX 3D, the disadvantage comes in post-production when visual effects must be added, rendered, and kept consistent across all formats.
  • There’s a sequence in Iceland that was shot on film.
  • There are about 18 new robot characters in this film.
  • It takes ILM about 15 weeks to build the geometry for the robot models, and another 15 to 20 weeks to build the skeletal rigging for it. Then come painting and texturing, followed by constant tweaks to each robot depending on the format and lens used in each scene.
  • The VFX department will employ anywhere from 50 to 350 by the end of production.
  • transformers-age-of-extinction-poster-dinobotsMost of the robot animation is done with keyframe animation, with motion capture being used only when they’re trying out new types of stunts.
  • Due to the difficulty of making a 100% digital human character believable, the shoots try to do as much practical actions between the robots and humans (being grabbed, cradled, or carried) as they can.
  • They also try to incorporate as many practical effects (smoke, fire, etc) as possible since it looks more convincing than anything added digitally in post-production.
  • A large part of the VFX work is digitally recreating cities and buildings that are then manipulated (and usually destroyed) in the final film, for example the tilting building sequence in the last film.
  • A VFX team spent a few weeks photographing every angle of buildings in Hong Kong in order to be able to digitally recreate the city.
  • The laws of physics actually prevent the VFX team from doing a lot of these scenes practically with miniatures, so digital replacement is absolutely necessary.
  • On previous films, each IMAX frame took 36 hours to fully render at the fastest rate available. Now that this movie is incorporating IMAX 3D, each will take twice as long due to the stereo nature of the format.


Here’s more from our Transformers: Age of Extinction Set Visit:

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