Monday, 15 July 2019

Mystery Photographs No:6 Russian film.

I recently acquired a spectacular series of 30 photographs documenting the shooting of miniature ship effects for an unknown Russian film.

I had been watching these on ebay for at least a year. The original starting price was way outside what I could afford and ironically the seller had cut and pasted a section of text from the about page of this website. Over time with apparently no takers the price did come down gradually but was still higher than my meager resources would allow. Just recently a "make an offer" button was added to the listing and I offered what I could afford, which to my surprise was accepted.

The photographs are small prints only about 125mm by 80mm (5" x 3 1/4") and are pasted in an old  photo album. The photos show a range of techniques in use from very detailed miniatures to paintings on glass and what looks like a full size set piece. The filming tank is built outdoors on the coast so that the overflow blends with the real ocean horizon. There is a shot showing the wave making equipment and one showing a wind machine made from the cut off front of a small aircraft.

I would love to know the title of the film and the year it was made. If any reader has any clues about the film please let me know using the comments system.

The small photo album

Inside, no text just small black and white photos.

Back cover

The Photographs

Here you can see where the tank horizon is extended by the real ocean horizon behind.

The distant ships are not much more than some simple sail shapes lined up.

Full size set piece.

Glass painting of distant ships.

Clouds painted on glass.

Wave making; the bit of wood probably makes the small ripples while the drum makes the larger swell.

Wind machine made from the front of an old aircraft.

Miniature castle being populated with miniature cannons.

Close up of the distant simplified sail models

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Hamlet 1948

Along with some moody matte paintings there are a couple of model ship shots in The Lawrence Olivier Hamlet film from 1948.
One of the characters reads a letter from Hamlet where he describes being captured by pirates and the action in the letter is depicted in a blurry framed vignette.

There is a credit for three special effects men but according to IMDB the uncredited visual effects personnel included George Blackwell and Bill Warrington both well known for their miniature work along with James Snow who was well known for miniature pyrotechnics.

The models were shot in a tank at Denham Studios.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Mystery set photographs post from 2016 finally solved.

Long time reader and enthusiast McTodd has come up with the title of the movie from which the mystery film set photographs belong. This was a post from 2016 and you can find it and the answer here.

The miniature pier photographs from the Mystery Photographs No:5 post still remain a mystery.

Monday, 22 April 2019

War of the Worlds 2005

There is a car carrying, river crossing ferry in a sequence of this film that for for the rolling over shots required a 1/8th scale miniature complete with twelve 1/8 scale cars sliding and toppling into the water.

The 21 and a half foot (6.5m) long, 5 foot (1.5m) wide ferry model was shot dry, mounted on a rotating spit about 10 feet (3m) above the stage floor. For underwater shots it was photographed in a denser smoke filled stage to represent the murky depths of the river. All the water was a combination of elements from live action plates and cg water.

The supervising modelmaker was Steve Gawley at ILM with the visual effects supervisors being Dennis Muren and Pablo Helman. The miniatures director of photography was Marty Rosenberg.

Steve Gawley and the ferry miniature.

Other miniatures were employed throughout the film. The first one seen on screen is a church front and surrounding buildings. The front of the church  splits off as a martian War machine comes up from under the street. Only the front of the church is miniature the rest of the shot is of the location building.

There was a miniature made of the street surface that bubbles up and drops away forming a sinkhole.

When the massive destruction of a bridge occurs there are a row of four 1/8 scale breakaway houses with a large miniature tanker truck crashing through them. Again rest of the shot is a mix CG and live action elements.

 As the war machines start to succumb to the effects of Earth's bacteria one falls through a building that was also built as a very convincing 1/12 scale breakaway miniature. Two miniature breakaway brick chimneys were also built for the sequence.

There was also a miniature of a deserted street built for a scene that was cut from the film.

Miniature sequence cut from the final film.
The effects in the film are so awash with multiple elements from various live and CG sources it is difficult to pick out the miniature work. I am sure that this is precisely what the visual effects supervisors were aiming for and the film is pretty successful in that regard. I tend to prefer the older films where the miniatures are as unadulterated as possible, where a miniature shot is all miniature much like the old War of the Worlds movie from the fifties. I read a comment on a Facebook group recently where someone commented " I prefer a miniature shot that looks like a miniature, than a CG shot that looks like CG". I am afraid I am very much in that camp.


Source: - CINEFEX #103 October 2005.

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