Planet 4 Chestburster (Alien Covenant)

Posted by Darkness on May 15, 2023 (Updated: 06-Sep-2023)

The Chestburster appeared in 2017’s Alien Covenant. It wasn’t a conventional snake-like Chestburster that we’ve seen before – it was a small version of an adult Xenomorph.

Characteristics

Unlike the snake-like creature that normally bursts out of a human host, the creature that emerges from Oram was just a smaller version of what it would eventually become. It’s a very similar concept to the Bambi-Burster on Fiorina 161 that emerged from the Dog/Ox and they both have arms, legs, an elongated head and a clear exoskeleton.

 Planet 4 Chestburster (Alien Covenant)

The Chestburster on the Engineer homeworld.

The incubation rate is extremely fast too – even faster than the Chestbursters found on Antarctica. From Oram regaining consciousness to the alien bursting out of him is less than a minute. It took hours for the Chestburster to come out of Kane on the Nostromo. These differences could be explained that these are engineered aliens, created by the android David and they aren’t exactly the same types of Xenomorphs we’ve seen before.

Story

In 2094, Elizabeth Shaw and the android David departed from LV-223 in an Engineer spacecraft and reached the Engineer homeworld – later known as Planet 4. Shaw was killed and David began studying the flora and fauna on the planet. He was stranded on the planet for over a decade and furthered his research and experiments to create the perfect organism.

 Planet 4 Chestburster (Alien Covenant)

The Chestburster on the Engineer homeworld.

David eventually created several Alien eggs which were left waiting for hosts. When the crew of the Covenant found him in 2104, he was able to test out his experiments. Oram approached one of the eggs, which opened and a Facehugger attacked him. After a short time, Oram regains consciousness and the creature bursts out of him. It grows into a variation of the Xenomorph – the Praetomorph, or a perhaps a precursor to the Xenomorph encountered in the future.

Behind-The-Scenes

The Chestburster seen on screen was a digital creation by Visual Effects studio Framestore. It was based on a sketch by Ridley Scott and an articulated maquette by Odd Studio. The puppet on set was sculpted by Dominic Hailstone with a translucent silicone cast by Rob Trenton and Suzi Battersby with a polished armature inside of it made by Greg McKee.

The final version of the Chestburster was created by Framestore’s Montréal studio, led by animation supervisor Spencer Cook who scanned the practical maquette. The Chestburster was initially planned for around 20 shots but it ended up being shorter in the final edit. The creature was nicknamed ‘Chester‘ by the Lead Animator Thierry Dezarmenien and unlike the worm-like Chestbursters we’ve seen before, this one was a fully formed biped with two arms and two legs. Ridley Scott wanted to keep the shape mysterious so that its true form is only revealed at the end of the sequence.

 Planet 4 Chestburster (Alien Covenant)

Puppet Chestburster

Framestore used insect larva and reptiles hatching from eggs as reference material for the scene. The animation rig allowed the limbs to bend backwards and bones to come apart, allowing the animators to deform its anatomy and pose it in inhuman ways. Various fluid, muscle and cloth simulations added horrific detail to the final animation.

It was clear from the plate photography that Ridley Scott wanted to experiment with the translucency of the Chestburster. All the shots were heavily backlit to help with this aspect of the creature. The biggest challenge for Framestore wasn’t so much the lighting of the Chestburster but it forced them to pay special attention to the creature’s internal structure. They needed the shots to feel organic and malleable and not like a simple transparent creature. The team used ZBrush to add extra detail. Translucent skin was modelled and textured to reveal detailed layers of muscle, bone and organs.

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