Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-01 15:34:43


Hi everybody, I'm new to making threads and this question had appeared in my GREETINGS AND MEETINGS thread, but I think it will suit better if it were here. My question is, how do they make miniature sets identical to real life ones. I was told rear-projection and mattes had something to do with it along with painted glass, but I would think there might be a little more to it. Since I've notice in alot of O'bie and Harryhausen films the sets and scenes are exactly the same (I cant tell if there is a difference). I am especially curious how O'bie could have done this sort of effect in particular. To my knowledge they have been making these sets look exactly the same as far back as The Lost World (1925). Is there something else involved? dynamator :)

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-12-01 22:48:34

It would be good if you could pick a particular sequence of shots. Many of us will have the films on DVD, and there are certainly some pros here who would have a good idea exactly how it was done. When I make sets in more than one scale (like 1:1 for closeups of little rats or bugs, 1:6 for shots of puppet humans, and 1:24 for wide shots of street with cars going past) I don't need a perfect match. In each scale the colours are the same, and the same type of texture. There might be a dark stain down the wall in each size set, but you don't need to match up every blotch and dribble. They are the same in the ways that are important to the viewer. I often put in something obvious like a bright yellow garbage bin that I can make in 3 scales, that tells you that THIS is a closeup of THAT area of the wideshot. You'll notice that it's yellow and dented, but not how many dents. Your focus is on the action. So you make a scale model that has the right proportions, and any really noticeable features look the same. I suspect you could film a car chase where the hero drives a different model of car in each shot, but all painted the same colour. If you cut on the action, the audience won't even notice - You see a wide shot of a blue car skidding around the corner, cut to a closeup of the actor seen through the window of a blue car with the corner going past in the background, if they are similar vehicles you'll go along with it. (Wouldn't work if one was a 1960 Porche, the next one a 1923 model T, and the next one a Hummer!) When one shot is composited into another, or the same surface is part real and part miniature, you have to be more careful. So if the actors are on a beach and a creature comes out from behind a rock, there may be a bit of miniature sandy gound under the puppet where his shadow goes. The live action has already been shot, so you use that as a reference to get the colour and texture so it looks the same. It has to blend in. In fact there is sometimes a mismatch - like the floor under Kali which comes up looking too purple compared to the full size temple set. It's not the fault of the set, it's a colour change that occurred in the processing, where the background footage is projected and re-photographed, and the colour comes up different than it looked in front of the camera. (Not such a problem in the B&W days, and no longer a problem shooting on digital cameras where you can check it instantly.) You also get mismatches with big props like the creature's foot or claw or tail that are used in the set with the actors, they don't always look the same as the puppet. You notice them more because they are part of the action, not just background. Usually it's because a studio department built the big prop and had to use different materials and methods, not the puppet maker.

Posted by Strider, on 2005-12-01 23:59:21

Hey D, The best thing you could possibly do is get yourself a copy of the newly released King King special edition. There's o much behind the scenes goodness it just absolutely [b]reeks[/b] of education!! Petey and company actually recreated the effects the same way O'Bie did it back in the day, and they got camera crews in there to record all of it. Just having watched it without really paying close attention (as you doubtless would) I feel like I could do it myself now!

Posted by catizone, on 2005-12-02 05:20:29

Very Good points above. However,if the goal is to make a miniature set match a full size set, you're in for some real work. Tale lots of photos and measure everything you can. Then build to the scale you are using. Other solutions are to add the model INTO a live scene, much as Ray has done with his work. That can be using quality cutout photos of buildings, etc. Or...compositing the character into the set by blue screen, rear projection, etc. Best, Rick

Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-02 15:13:04

Thanks you guys for replying to my question.:) I am really glad I found this animation forum. I don't know how I would get this question answered without expert animator's answers(such as yourselves). I did think of a particular scene after reading Mike Brent's response about the King Kong DVD. A scene that has (I think) a good exaple of real life and miniature sets working together would have to be the log scenes. When King Kong and the real life actors cross the log. King Kong's environment is exactly the same the King Kong cast's environment. The whole scene (log an all) looks identical (I see no difference). But then again it might be because I saw the film on VHS. Thanks everybody, dynamator

Posted by Strider, on 2005-12-02 23:31:29

I'll bet if you really gort freeze frame enlargements of frames from both shots and compare them, you'll be able to see the differences. But I'm also quite sure they did everything they could to replicate the details in both sets. But then, that's why they had such talented artists working on the project. One way to hid the differences would be to shoot from a different camera angle on each. I think if I wanted to try something similar, I'd start with whatever I could cobble together right now, however crappy it might be, and just work rough and dirty. Then the next time you tackle it, you'll have already learned a lot from the first experience, even if all you can do is throw up a crude background painting, a piece of glass or plastic with some silhouette trees painted on and a few crappy foreground minature trees made from twisted wires and plasticene, or whatever. As you get a little experience and start to learn techniques and get better materials and equipment, it'll start to come together. I'd also be googling everything I could find concerning drawing and painting trees and landscapes, or buildings, or whatever it is you want to use for a setting.

Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-04 09:13:51

I appreciate your help Mike. I think I'll be off the forum for a little while, I'll see what I can do with what everyone has told me and get to work. Also I'll give everybody all the details (if they wish to know how it worked out). Thank you everybody who has contributed there info on the matter. I really do appreciate it. Thanks again dynamator.

Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-09 11:25:18

I just started my combination footage project. It is really not that much all it consists of (so far) is me with two others in the background (in the snow) supposivley making a documentury of dinosaurs being wiped out be climate changes. In the foreground their is this t-rex and a triceratops, they do fight but because of the extreme coldness have not much time to worry about each other and are trying to hold out. I did infact actaully use miniature foilage to reperasent dead trees in the foreground (as suggested by Nick H.), I used baking powder snow and I've tried to make it match the real snow (not working out too well) I hope to film in the next scenes the dinosaurs actaully falling down in the snow. That would look really cool! :7 I would like to show everybody but I don't really know how to make an attachment. Also - I found something called the Willams Process when I was looking through the King Kong (1933) movie script (to see if they gave away their technique). I'm sure it has to do with combining the images, but I do not know what it is. Does anybody have any idea what the Williams Process is? dynamator

Posted by Jim Aupperle, on 2005-12-09 12:42:31

[div class="dcquote"][strong]Quote[/strong] Does anybody have any idea what the Williams Process is? dynamator [/div] The Williams Process, invented by Frank Williams, was a traveling matte system for B&W film that used a blue screen during photography and was composited on an optical printer. Further information might be found in "Techniques of Special Effects of Cinematography" by Raymond Fielding (I can't find my copy so I'm not sure how much detail Mr. Fielding goes into). I found a little info on line which states that the backing used in the Williams process was black rather than blue. The black backing was much earlier than Kong so perhaps Williams had revised it by 1932. "Early processes relied upon contrast alone, the foreground action being filmed against a jet black backing and the resulting image being printed through several generations of high contrast film stock or alternatively, having the image chemically "intensified" until a matte was produced. One example of this technique is described in U.S. Pat. No. 1,273,435 to Frank Williams in 1918." "The results obtained by this technique were generally quite poor, due to the inevitable distortion produced by the multiple reversals or the intensification which result in "haloes" or "fringes" occurring between the scene elements. Efforts to address these problems led to the exploitation of the chromatic response of black and white photographic film and resulted in the Dunning-Pomeroy process (U.S. Pat. No. 1,613,163 to Carrol D. Dunning, 1927) and another Williams process (U.S. Pat. No. 2,024,081, Dec. 10, 1935). With the advent of color film recording, notably the Technicolor process, the chromatic based systems began to proliferate. (See U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,693,126, and 2,740,712 to W. E. Pohl.)." "The fundamental concept that makes it possible to derive a matte from a polychromatic photographic image is based on the fact that the superimposition of positive and negative images will cancel each other out and yield an opaque image. Thus it follows that if a given portion of the image is comprised of a pure monochromatic object, i.e. blue, this portion will appear as light in a print of the film record that is sensitive to blue and dark in prints of the film records that are not sensitive to blue, i.e. the red and green records. Therefore, if the red negative record, in which the "blue" object appears light, is superimposed with the blue positive record, in which the blue object also appears light, the blue object will remain the only significant "light" object in the scene, all polychromatic portions of the scene having canceled each other out to yield an opaque image. It is then straightforward to produce a set of positive and negative high contrast "mattes" and employ these to print, in succession, the foreground and background elements of a composite scene." Jim Aupperle

Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-09 17:25:06

[div class="dcquote"][strong]Quote[/strong]I found a little info on line which states that the backing used in the Williams process was black rather than blue. The black backing was much earlier than Kong so perhaps Williams had revised it by 1932.[/div] If Williams had revised it, perhaps he had invented the yellow-backing baking soda process, because In RH's book "An Animated Life" , I believe they had said the yellow backing had been around before blue backing so perhaps it was the yellow back process he had "changed" it to. (That is just a guess, I really don't know). Wow, thanks for the detailed response. Now that I think of it I believe I have read about the black backing that was used. I believe there was a segment about it in a book called "FILM TRICKS" Thanks for your help Jim! :-) dynamator

Posted by Jim Aupperle, on 2005-12-09 17:48:47

The yellow backing system is known as the sodium vapor traveling matte. As far as I can tell it was invented sometime in the 1950s. Williams was working in Los Angeles in the 1930s and the sodium process was developed in England about 20 years later. In 1956 the "J. Arthur Rank organization developed the sodium-light travelling-matte process which eliminated the matte-line effect and was first used in Plain Sailing." Disney's Mary Poppins and Ray Harryahusen's Mysterious Island both made extensive use of sodium light travelling mattes. Jonathan Erland mentions the Dunning process as another early traveling matte for B&W effects work. "The compositing process known as bluescreen had its beginnings in the work of Messrs Dunning, Pomeroy and Oliver in the late twenties and early thirties. From Dunning's use of a colored backing to distinguish the foreground from the background, through Pomeroy's five separate compositing processes, to Oliver's insightful application of the lithographic color separating process, these pioneering efforts produced a system of traveling matte photography that was to blossom into a rich tapestry of technical wizardry." As I said in an above post, check out "Techniques of Special Effects of Cinematography" by Raymond Fielding. That book has the best information on film traveling mattes.

Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-09 18:10:54

You sure know your film history Jim! :7 - Anyway, thanks for straightening me out about the facts of chroma key. And as for "Techniques of Special Effects of Cinematography" I'll look around for it. Thanks for all your help Jim, dynamator

Posted by dynamator, on 2005-12-21 16:38:54

Just bought 150 USD LCD flat screen monitor for new form of back projection. (I read about the idea in one of the older threads.) It works good (so far) except the picture (on monitor) almost constantly changes to this blue color (when you look through the cameras eye, with the naked eye it is fine). Sometimes I just flip my camera on and off a few times and re-adjusts the colors. dynamator