Monday 16 February 2015

The Abyss 1989 Part 4

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

Montana interior flooding

Two miniature sets were constructed  and shot to provide rear projection plates for the live action portion of the Montana sinking. One set was of the engine room built by Wonderworks and filmed at Gaffney. it was about 4 feet wide, 12 feet long and 18 inches tall. Installed  with miniature lighting and hoses emitting spray it was lowered rapidly by a crane into the tank at a 45 degree angle with the camera attached so it looked like a wall of water was rushing forward. This plate was then combined with actors in a full size set and co-ordinated dump tanks to complete the illusion of catastrophic flooding.

Miniature Montana engine room set.

The other set was of the torpedo room which was rigged with a radial nozzle that sprayed water out as if coming from a blown hatch seal on the torpedo tubes, followed by a large dump of water under pressure which blows the hatches off. Unusually for a miniature shoot, this shot was filmed at 16 frames per second to really sell the power and speed of the water. Once again this was rear projected in a live action set with actors and sychronised action.

 Sea King Helicopters

It looks like these were shot motion control with a separate UV light pass for the rotor blades however I cant be certain as I can not find any information about them whatsoever.  They may not even have been used in the final cut. they look to be about 1/12 scale.

UPDATE: Read the comments section below where John Bruno explains the purpose of these helicopter miniatures.

Bud Puppets

A couple of different scales of Bud puppets were made for motion control shots of Bud falling down into the abyss in the Fluorocarbon emulsion breathing suit.

NTI Scout and Manta

These models were made  by Dave Goldberg and his crew . the outer hulls were made of a vacuum formed UVEX plastic which in one pass glowed under UV light. Inside was a series of acrylic frames and nested glass shapes. One evacuated glass vessel was filled with a gas mixture which would glow when subjected to a specific radio frequency. Other lighting was included with miniature neon tubes and sequenced fiber optics making a spinning turbine effect. Around 9 separate exposures were built up over the same piece of film to complete the look, shot using motion Control at Dreamquest.

NTI creatures

The NTI puppets were made by Steve Johnson's XFX mostly from a flexible translucent cast urethane and vacuum formed rigid acrylic shells. They had a number of fiber optic light sourced embedded in the castings. They were shot in water tanks both at the San Pedro facility and later in the 8 foot (1.5m) square cloud tank at Dreamquest.  For shots where the puppet,s wings are undulating for propulsion purposes, the puppet main support and the camera were attached to a rigid beam that went up and down. The resistance due to the water made the wings flap as the body travels up and down with the camera linked to the same motion outside the tank. The body of the creature to the camera appears to stay still with just the wings motion evident. There is a very illuminating series of videos about the filming of these puppets on youtube.


Part 5 will complete this series with screen grabs from the movie.

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


  1. 1/12th Sea King Helicopters. Matched the full size helicopters used by the Dept of forestry found in Bakersfield California. They were "on call" and painted Yellow and White. We re-painted them Navy Blue with a washable paint. Right after the landing sequence (shot at Harbor Star in Long Beach) the Sea kings were called away to assist in a forest fire. No take 2. The Miniature version was designed and shot "in camera" on the rear deck of the tug (in open ocean) at Grays Bay. Originally battery operated, they hung from a wire connected to the rotor. Once we started filming the batteries died. Never got a workable shot of the blades spinning realistically. The shot was never used.

  2. Thanks for the taking the time to add a detailed comment which confirms my guess that they were not used in the film. I am big fan of all your VFX work and I think the Abyss is an astonishing achievement and in my view unlikely to ever be beaten.


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