Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Model Builder: Dimitri Kaliviotis

Model builder Dimitri Kaliviotis shows off some pictures from his portfolio. Some excellent work! I love that he mentions a low-budget solution to some challenges. Speaking of some torches for the walls of a dungeon, he mentions:

"Made in a real hurry with dollar store stuff like toothpicks, broach-pins, golf tees, hair pins....etc.  A small light was added in each one to make some shadows happen.  CG fire was added later in post."

Dollar Store Torch


Special Effects and Miniature Museum in France

I'd love to go to Europe someday - now I have a reason to go to France, specifically! Check out this amazing museum dedicated to miniatures and film special effects. It's wonderful to see the craftsmanship is being preserved, but I hope that the use of miniatures is not confined to a museum in the future.

"Created by miniaturist artist Dan Ohlmann, the Musée Cinéma et Miniature presents two rare and exclusive collections : first, over 100 miniature scenes exquisitely crafted by world-renowned miniaturists and reproducing daily life settings with hyperrealism; second, a film exhibition, one-of-its-kind in Europe, that focuses on special effects techniques. Featuring over 300 original film props and artefacts, this educational display uncovers the magic behind the greatest film studios."

Musée Cinéma et Miniature

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

C Movie Miniature Build

Over at the Replica Prop Forum, there is a thread that documents the building of a starship model for an independent short titled "C." If you're the type that likes pictures documenting the build process of film miniatures, you're in for a treat, as this thread is filled with a good selection of photos. It starts with the basic computer model and continues through the finished miniature. The builder estimates over 3000 man-hours in the production of the miniature. You can watch the short film online before looking at the behind-the-scenes stuff, if you're the type that wants to see the finished effects prior to seeing the how-to stuff. Me? I'll take a good background look anytime!

RPF - C Movie Starship Build

C - The Movie

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

24 Outstanding Effects Shots: Any Miniatures?

Last December, The Single-Minded Movie Blog did a series called "Outstanding Effects Shots," stating that, "every day will bring you a short post about a classic or not so classic shot from the golden era of visual effects." I don't know if this is a list of the blogkeeper's "best ever of all time," or just some he liked, but I appreciated the breakdown.

I also couldn't help but notice that miniatures were involved in 20 of those 24 outstanding shots, with the remainder going to matte shots and 1 forced perspective. Miniatures get the job done!

The Single-Minded Movie Blog: Outstanding Effects Shots

Temple of Doom: Mine Cart Chase

A photo of the miniature mine cart used in the production of the mine cart chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom led me on a quest for more information on this sequence. It is barely mentioned in the The Complete Making of Indiana Jones or the From Star Wars to Indiana Jones books and the ILM books have little to add either. The behind the scenes portions of the film on DVD has some coverage, but I found an excellent write up with great detail at (linked below) that provides the most detail on this segment that I have seen, along with lots of detail about the other Indy films as well. They had some great photos (some from the books referenced above) and I located a few others on the web as well, which I have added below.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find clip of this scene on the web to link to, though if you have it on DVD and give it a review, you'll find that this old-school segment holds up very well on screen. It intercuts excellently with the live-action portions and is very realistic, even if you know the trick.

"Making tiny sets and props was no problem for the ILM model makers. Filming them was. Since many of the shots called for the camera to be trucking along with the action, the mineshaft sets needed to be built large enough to allow sufficient clearance all around. The smallest camera in the ILM inventory was 9-inch width and seemed to be a limiting factor on how small the sets could go. So they ended up using an in-house Nikon after Mike MacKenzie slowed down its motor drive about two-thirds and built a special magazine for it that would hold fifty feet of film, which is four hundred frames of VistaVision. ... By making the Nikon work they essentially cut their scale in half, which meant that rather than building a set that was sixty feet long, they had to build one that was only thirty feet long. That saved them an enormous amount of time and money. It was determined that ten-inch mine cars would be employed for most of the chase sequence."

The mine walls were crafted from heavy aluminum foil, which were then painted and weathered to look like rock. The set was further dressed with miniature lanterns, barrels, buckets and debris to show an active mining operation at work.

It's a great read, so check it out, as well as the pictures below, showing the animation models, the miniature set and the creative camera solution.

The display in the Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology exhibit.

The stop-motion figures. The largest are 10 inches tall.
Close-up of the Thugees in the mine cart.

 Special Effects of Temple of Doom

Single-Minded Movie Blog: Outstanding Effects Shots

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Effects

Ah, Google, how I love thee! You've been helping me stumble onto interesting things so faithfully!

In this case,  a search for info about the miniature mine carts in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom led me to an article from the November, 1981 issue of American Cinematographer magazine regarding the creation of special effects for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It's a good read! Although much of what is covered will be familiar to a Raiders fan, I was particularly interested in the photo showing a box of action figures dressed in German army uniforms. I had read that they had used off-the-shelf figures for the scene in which the soldiers are swept into the sky following the opening of the Ark, but I don't recall ever seeing a close up photo of these figures.

The article itself doesn't discuss these figures (though it does mention some 4.5-inch figures used in the same part of the film), but I had always heard that they had used "G.I. Joe" or "Action Man" figures, while the ones in the box are clearly not from those lines. An additional search pulled up an online prop auction for one of these figures that provided some additional information- they're Kenner's 12-inch Star Wars figures! Han Solo dolls reworked into Nazi soldiers:

"During the climactic ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the interior of the Ark is revealed, the spirits are freed morphing into gruesome demons. During the conflagration the Nazi soldiers are swept up in the flames and destroyed. This is one of the special effects puppets used in that scene and is created, interestingly enough, from a large-scale Harrison Ford “Han Solo” Star Wars action figure! The head, hands, and hair have been repainted, a resin officer’s cap has been added, as well as painted cuffs made from tape. Includes a wooden rifle with shoulder strap (tip of rifle broken). Measures 12 in. tall. Exhibits slight wear from production use."

I love the modification of off-the-shelf items for special effects work. This is a delight!

Below are photos from the auction, as well as a clip from the film showing one of these figures in action.

Cinema Raiders: American Cinematographer Article

Raiders Prop Auction

Monday, March 11, 2013

"The Hobbit" - No Miniatures Allowed

Although "The Hobbit" has nearly completed it's theatrical run (I haven't seen it yet, but it just hit the local cheap theater so I'll likely see it this week), I hadn't read much about the production. Apparently, there won't be a "miniatures" section when the Special Editions hit the DVD.

During production, director Peter Jackson said, "This time around, there are no miniatures. It’s all done with CGI.  Everything that we need to build, from a miniature point of view, we build as a CG miniature. I can now swoop in, over rooftops and through doorways. I can do things that I never could have dreamt of doing with the miniatures. For me, that’s actually one of the most profound differences." 

Profound? Indeed. I can appreciate the benefits of CGI. Really, I can. But hearing that Peter Jackson has removed miniatures from his toolbag makes me feel very, very sad.

“The Hobbit” Special Effects To Be All CGI – No Miniatures Allowed

Behind the Scenes: A Small Trip

"Philippe Toupin was the visual effects creator in this short BTS film, “A Small Trip To The Making Of Visual Effects – Miniatures Effects”, that shows of some true talent using miniature props. My opinion? This stuff kicks butt and can stand on its own even by today’s digital standards."

This behind-the-scenes piece shows the production of an independent short with some big demands in the special effects department. See, there's this airplane. But it's not just flying - it's crashing, in a big-budget style. Combining old-school practical miniatures and enhancing them with modern digital effects, the low-budget filmmaker can deliver impressive results.

DSLR Cinema: Miniature Effects

Octopussy: James Bond Miniature Sequence

A great little retrospective on the Director's Guild of America web site from John Glen, director of several James Bond films. In this piece, we get a shot-by-shot breakdown of an effects sequence from Octopussy (1983), complete with several miniature elements, including a great foreground miniature set-up of a jet plane exiting a hanger.

 Though I've never been a big Bond fan, this is a great sequence!

DGA Web Site: Flight of Fancy

Watch the sequence on YouTube

Tokusatsu: Special Effects Museum

I ran across an article that discussed the exhibition ‘TOKUSATSU: Special Effects Museum-Craftsmanship of Showa and Heisei Eras Seen Through Miniatures’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

What that means to you and me is: giant monsters attacking Japanese cities.

That's right - the miniature magic of this film genre has been recognized as an art form, with a suitable exhibition. The linked article gives the details, but not much in the way of visuals. Luckily, I was able to find some video footage from the SciFi Japan web site that filled in some gaps.

Frieze Magazine: Tokusatsu


Model Ships in the Cinema

There are niche interests, but this is a niche interest that is right up my alley! A blog about model ships and their use in films, including lots of screenshots and details when the author can dig them up. Well worth a visit for a miniatures fan, even if you're not a salty old sea-dog.

Model Ships in the Cinema