Sunday 10 June 2018

Virus 1998

Directed by John Bruno the visual effects supervisor on The Abyss among others. Ship Miniatures and miniature photography supervised by Gene Warren Jr. and Fantasy II Film Effects.

The main ship miniature, a fictitious Russian research vessel named the Akademik Vladislav Volkov was built upon one of the old hulls of the Benthic Explorer miniature from The Abyss. Fantasy II Film Effects had to lengthen the hull to match the live action vessel used in the production, the Hoyt S. Vandenburg, a mothballed US Navy missile tracking ship due for scrapping. Three feet were added to the bow and two feet added to the stern bringing the 42 foot hull to a total length of 47 feet ( 14.3m ), making the model around 1/11 scale. The Benthic hull was also widened to better match with the Vandenburg. The hull additions were principally fibreglass with the new superstructure fabricated in aluminium. The model had around twelve marine batteries inside to power the approximately 180 exterior lights as well as the satellite dish motor.

As well as miniature construction, a Tank was also constructed in an industrial area in Sun Valley Los Angeles to achieve the storm shots required. The tank was roughly 100 foot square and 22 feet at its deepest with overflow troughs around three sides. It was designed to be capable of generating big waves with a dump tank system that dropped the water through a tunnel into the tank 4 feet below the surface via a mechanically hinged 40 foot wide door. In filming 5 foot high (1.5m) waves were achieved, though in theory it was capable of more. The tank had 50 tie down points built into concrete reinforcement flush with tank's surface that the models and equipment could be tethered to.

Not all the shots were done in the tank. The model was first used at sea near Paradise Cove Malabu for a series of sunrise, daytime and helicopter aerial shots.The model was transported to the filming location by barge from Long beach.

Other ocean going miniatures constructed by Fantasy II for the movie were the Sea Star Tug and the container laden barge it is towing. Both were constructed mostly from aluminium over steel formers. The tug was pulled by a cable from outside the tank and had a jet ski operated from inside the model to produce a suitable wake and prop wash.

1/6th scale tug hull drawing.

Below is an impressive behind the scenes video of the barge being shot at night in the Sun Valley tank complete with the dump tank generated miniature waves and wind machine storm conditions.

Other miniatures constructed for the film by Acme Models, led by Mike Joyce, included  a seven foot long (2.1m) accurate MIR space station and a rocket sled that is used to escape in the fiery finale. These were shot motion control by Fantasy II.

Cinefex number 76 January 1999 Article by Kevin H Martin,
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models International #47 Article by Paul Taglianetti

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