Director Neill Blomkamp's first feature film, District 9, was a vision of Johannesburg beset with alien-filled slums. It was science fiction that felt plausible — the aliens had to deal with xenophobia and bureaucracy, and their weapons and ships looked dirty and rundown. For his follow-up Elysium, Blomkamp looked to build a similarly deep and realistic sci-fi setting, only this time based in Los Angeles. "My largest personal goal making this film was to try and frame a vision of the future for the audience, and to do that with a world that felt as real and multi-layered as possible," he writes in the foreword for Elysium: The Art of the Film. "The only way that can be accomplished is with a shitload of conceptual design and visual ideas." All told, more than 3,000 pieces of art were created in order to build that vision.

Elysium takes place 140 years in the future, when the planet has been divided into two very distinct social classes: those who live in the gleaming space habitat Elysium, and the rest of us stuck back in the slums of Earth. Early on, creating that world involved lots of sketches, which Blomkamp gathered into a detailed graphic novel that covered everything from characters and locations to weapons and vehicles. That book became a tool that helped him sell lead actor Matt Damon and others on the project. "Neill's an accomplished designer in his own right and often had very specific ideas on how things should look," says Aaron Beck, a Weta Workshop concept artist who worked on the film. "So he had great concise feedback when necessary.”