Monday 16 February 2015

The Abyss 1989 Part 5

This is Part 5. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here,  Part 3 is here and Part 4 is here.

Looking back at the visual effects work on the Abyss I was struck by how the miniatures shot both in a real underwater environment and motion controlled in smoke filled studio  are still as effective and compelling today as they were back in 1989. At the time it was the computer generated Pseudopod which captured all the attention, which ironically, looking at it today , rather shows its age.

This film was at the very start of the digital revolution which has transformed the field of visual effects irrevocably. There are visual effects supervisors today who have never been on a miniatures shoot, they have no experience of it, the technique is slowly being lost. My aim with this website is try to keep the knowledge alive in any small way I can. There has never been a CGI film that has in any way been close to capturing the deep felt enthusiasm I have for miniatures. The tragedy is that in this day and age where the constraints of the photochemical film process and optical printing have been totally overcome by digital  compositing, where it is a relatively simple task to remove wires and control rods from a scene and where radio control is now reliable, flexible and interference free, miniatures could now more than ever be a practical and economical visual effects solution.  It's not gonna happen but I can dream...

Source for parts 1 through 4; Cinefex magazine number 39, August 1989


  1. Epic blog!

  2. Awesome information on the Abyss. I live in Upstate South Carolina not far from Gaffney where a great deal of the Abyss was filmed.

  3. Thank you for gathering all those information. I remember sitting in the cinema and watching that movie. This craftsmanship creates a sense and emotion no computer software will ever be able to generate.

  4. What an epic undertaking to put all of this priceless and for the most part "Lost" information together... and as your Prologue for Part 5 so eloquently states, what a shame that the current use of CGI & Digital FX people have no idea about the... well the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from working with Miniatures, no matter what scale. I had the great pleasure to meet and work with Jim, the Skotaks, Alec Gillis and Gale Ann Hurd back in 1980 on Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars. It was clear that I was in the Presence of Geniuses. I wouldn't meet them again until working on the LA underwater FX Crew that shot the Submersible Dog Fight (and other pick-ups) in the old Olympic Diving Pool next to the LA Coliseum. I had the pleasure of ramming the "smallest" of the Montana miniatures into the faux rock bottom. Impaled with a 20' long section of "Speed-Rail" the Montana was connected to an air-less sprayer pumping a mixture of "micro-bubbles" into the Nose. We did several Takes of the Nose shattering and spewing out all those miniature bubbles. After each take, we pulled it out, repaired and reassembled the shattered Nose with grey modeling clay and did it again... until Jim barked out, "That's it. Lunch." Again, Thank You for this incredible compilation of one of the most Epic Sci-Fi (and for that matter, ANY) Films of all time. Bravo!


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