THE SMA FORUM ARCHIVE
Posted by Moviestuff (Guest), on 2001-03-25 11:55:04
Aquarium Foreground Miniatures
NOTE: the following messages have been transferred from the original SMA.com Message Board
User ID: 0366544 Mar 11th 7:37 AM
A recent discussion with Thomas'Arts reminded me of a trick I used to help another guy with a shot he needed for his ill fated sci-fi magnus opus. He needed the classic collapsing building scene ala "The Last Days of Pompeii" (did I spell that right?)
Anyway, he was shooting on 16mm and needed the effect "in camera" to avoid opticals. No problem except that a)he didn't have a high speed camera and b)he wanted people visible in the background getting crushed by the falling debris, etc.
I used a large 50 gallon aquarium and built my collapsing miniature inside it as a forground miniature. Once filled with water (and the bubbles removed from the side of the glass!) it was crystal clear. The actors were aligned in the distance like any other foreground miniature shot. Then, on cue, the miniature was collapsed. The water made the pieces fall in slow mo while the actors looked up in horror and feigned death under the weight of the falling debris.
The flash of underwater 12volt quartz bulbs combind with a timed release of dyed milk added explosions to the mix. My assistant had experimented with different types of rock based sand for the "ground" that the debris crashes down on. I don't remember what type it was, but it kicked up and fell back down just like the shots of lunar soil from the moon. I remember that it had to be rock based sand so that it wouldn't cloud the all the water when disturbed; only the area it was in before falling slowly back to the bottom. Worked great.
I know. I know. This has nothing to do with stop motion but I thought it might be helpful to others. :)
User ID: 8861793 Mar 11th 7:46 AM
This is great info . Surely very usable . What material was the house from , that the parts did not swim . And how did you get the house collapse ?
User ID: 0366544 Mar 11th 9:50 AM
The buildings were made from plaster and metal framework, kind of like a real building. They were waterproofed with acrylic paint and were simply knocked over from out of frame. Some debris were dropped by hand on cue. Experiments showed us that anything that was going to drop had to ALREADY be in the water for two reasons:
1)Dropping them from above the surfact would introduce unwanted air bubbles in the scene.
2)We had to prep the models by shaking off any air bubble that had attached themselves to the debris.
Also, the water acted as a diopter of sorts. We had to verify focus in the viewfinder because distance measurements weren't realiable via tape measure. Everything had to be lined up by eye and a shot test was made on slide film using a Nikon with the same focal length lens. In all, it took about an hour to reset the model after each shot. We managed to get in in about 4 or 5 takes. Pretty much a day's worth of work, but it looked terrific, like all perspective shots do. I loved the work in "Honey I Blew Up the Kid". First rate.
User ID: 1278884 Mar 11th 12:06 PM
My favorite kinds of effects are stop motion (surprise), matte paintings and trick perspective work. I can watch DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE over and over and I never stop marveling at the work. That said, I'd take off my hat to you (if I had one) for using water to slow down the movements of a FG miniature. I never thought of that and I don't know of another instance of that being used (anyone?). Even though I worked on THE GATE I wasn't involved with Randy Cook's wonderful trick perspective effects. I once did some VERY basic perspective effects for a Charlie Band low budget direct to video, it's so much fun to pull off those shots. You make me want to get back behind the camera again. Some day... if only for my own projects.
User ID: 1278884 Mar 11th 12:13 PM
"Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?"
So if the set sinks, it weighs more than a duck, and this is not witchcraft and we can't burn it?
User ID: 0366544 Mar 11th 1:14 PM
Yes, Merlin, I have been sent on this most holy of quests.
My real name is Roger Evans. "Moviestuff" is the code name given to me by the government. Our objective is to prevent the spread of a film organization dedicated to "Meaningless Optical Techniques for Idiots and Overzealous Neophytes". We have bumper stickers that read "I Support Stop M.O.T.I.O.N."
Actually, I've knocked around the fringe of effects my whole life. I live and operate in Houston, Texas. I figured early on that there were too many people to compete with in California, so I just settled for the smaller pond. No complaints; life is good.
User ID: 0617234 Mar 12th 5:32 PM
I love your bumper sticker text, if it's not a bumper sticker is should be. Thanks for identifying yourself. I had asked you, who you where a while ago but could'n't find the post again to see if you answered. But are you really Roger Evans?? Hmmmm
User ID: 9314413 Mar 12th 5:43 PM
Maybe. Who wants to know?
I awoke this morning as Roger Evans. Now, I am here to lead you all into the promised land.... one frame at a time. Okay, so it'll take a while.
User ID: 9175333 Mar 12th 6:12 PM
"Bind the puppet with tie-downs, even unto the board of the animation table!"
So let it be written, so let it be a Dunning matte.
User ID: 1752694 Mar 12th 6:40 PM
Moviestuff, thanks for the underwater slow-mo idea. A reverse of the technique of overcranking dry-for-wet shots to give that underwater look. Ingenious! I tried a tank shot once, but found that even with clean water in a clean tank, it wasn't perfectly clear. Lights aimed at the object in the tank caused the water to glow a bit. I put a blue screen behind, but the diffused light in the water meant it didn't look very blue, or very even. I'm interested in this idea of yours because I have to collapse a house (Not a Poltergeist style implosion, this one's been eaten away by termites). Eventually I'm going to have to figure out a way to do it. I can get a high speed motor, but with the camera stopped down to f-16 or f-22 for depth of field, and running maybe 96 fps, the amount of light needed is going to be incredible. The water tank idea is worth considering.
User ID: 1112324 Mar 12th 7:24 PM
The slow-mo underwater is kind of neat! I'm wondering though ....the miniatures in the fish tank, might have to be very small. How much details can you get in the models? Of course, any materials you use, would have to be first tested so that they do not float. What about re-takes? You have to dump tank & rebuild miniatures?
Ray Harryhausen's low budget alternative was to animate the destruction using aerial braces (wire)which you can now remove digitally, then add all your smoke, small flying debris (digitally). Before you animate destruction, you can maybe study live action destruction of buildings, vehicles ,etc. .... to get frame counts/timings. Is 96 fps overcranking fast enough? If it isn't, maybe in post production you can double-up the frames to slow it even more. Just playing "Devil's Advocate" here!
User ID: 9314413 Mar 12th 8:02 PM
Hi, Nick and SMD!
Regarding clean water: The water had to be filtered. We used one of those thingys you put on a kitchen faucet. Then, when filling the tank, we poured the water through a coffee filter, using the holder from a "Mister Coffee". Here in Houston, we have really HARD water. Lots of sediment. Then again, soft water would have a plague of bubbles to content with.
The filling process is very slow because you don't want to disturb the sand in the bottom. We laid an animation cel on the sand while filling and then slowly slid it off toward one end. Important not to peel it off like a band-aid; that will lift the sand.
Yes, the tank had to be recleaned and the model had to be re-set. As I mentioned, it took about an hour or so for each set up.
Regarding detail: This model was of buldings already in ruin; supposedly after some future war or the like. The perspective was also from the inside looking out into a sort of court yard. Therefore, not much detail was really needed. That said, however, we used plaster and found that it was quite easy to etch detail into it very convincingly. As mentioned, the plaster was painted over with acrylic and given a weathered look.
In retrospect, I've always wondered if something like baby oil would work better. One couldn't inject milk or any water based dye into it, but it would certainly have more resistance than water and might be clearer and need less filtration.
The clean up would be fun....
User ID: 9314413 Mar 12th 8:22 PM
And for Jim:
"Der lies da' foreground miniature of my fadda'"
Are we getting too obscure?
User ID: 9175333 Mar 12th 8:31 PM
A line that Randy Cook and I liked to kick around:
"I think would be fun to be an animator?!!
I THINK it would be FUN to be an animator!!!!!?!!
User ID: 9314413 Mar 12th 8:35 PM
"You're too old to keep calling me "sir"."
"And YOU'RE too old to be called anything else!"
"There's no trick to making a lot of animation. If all you want is to make a lot of animation..."
You'll have to do better than that, old boy. ;)
User ID: 9175333 Mar 12th 8:59 PM
I was starting out the front door but then I had to come back for one of my favorites.
"Do you know where you are?!!"
"It's the house of PAIN!"
Far too easy, true, but I like that one, especially around the 3rd or 4th all nighter in a row.
User ID: 9314413 Mar 12th 9:09 PM
If we didn't like pain, we wouldn't be in the film business! I try to avoid the all nighters, in my old age (42) but sometimes it can't be helped.
"Animation's a nasty habit!"
"I know a nastier one."
User ID: 9196513 Mar 12th 11:33 PM
Listening to you all (or I should say reading) I'm reminded of the days I wanted to be an animator and Jim Danforth shared info so freely with me. Folks, this is a GREAT thing. It promotes the art, helps beginners, and even gives the "pros" some new ideas. If the whole world functioned like this it might be a nicer place. This concludes Philosphy 101, this is your teacher,Prof. Windbag, saying, "It's been a hoot!"
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 6:49 AM
Maybe we need bumper stickers that read "Animators do it one frame at a time."
Yeah, it is funny how competitive the rest of the film business is. Of course, none of us are competing for the same contract! There's so little effects work to go around. I guess we can afford to be gracious! What's funny is how counter intuitive this really is. If food were as scarce as animation projects, society would have collapsed altogether ala "Mad Max". I guess animators are, by nature, likable souls. Bottom of the food chain, perhaps, but tasty.
User ID: 1453344 Mar 13th 9:11 AM
re: "...a nasty habit." You've got me on that one.
Sounds like Bogart and Bacall...
"Oompa, oompa?" (?)
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 9:51 AM
Got ya, Jimmy!
They're both from "Willy Wonka". Not my favorite film, but very creative. I guess we better get back on topic, again.
User ID: 9175333 Mar 13th 12:19 PM
No, just one more:
"I know what you're thinking.
Did he shoot six frames or only five?
Well, to tell you the truth, in all
this excitement, I've kinda lost
track myself. But being as this is
a 65mm Mitchell, the highest
precision moviecamera in the world,
and can show up every flaw in your puppet,
you've got to ask yourself one question:
Do I feel lucky?
Well, do ya punk?"
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 1:10 PM
Now THAT's funny.
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 1:23 PM
Okay, one more.
"I thought you said stopmotion was fast!"
"Animating 3 dimensional space ain't like dustin' crops, boy. Without precise calculations you could miss your mark and find yourself in a not so super Nova, out of a job and that would end your hayride real quick, now wouldn't it? Everybody strap in. I'm going to make the jump to Go-motion."
Ahhhh. Your's was better, Jim. You win.
User ID: 9043333 Mar 13th 5:29 PM
While I love stop-motion, I'm also a BIG BIG fan of in-camera minature effects work. In high school (*sigh* millions of years ago)I used to make forced perspective miniature sets and matte paintings, and incorporate them via mirror a la Schuftan or simply as a tabletop on location. Some of the best miniature visuals were done that way, and they can STILL be done that way. The cool thing about in-camera work is that everything is on the same negative, same licghting no duping, and hence no loss of color, saturation, buildup of grain (you get the picture). I wish that the Lydeckers were still around to show these upstart cgi companies how well in-camera miniature effects can be. Oh well, at least we have their work as a legacy. Here it is 2001, and I'm STIll doing forced perspective work in my next film. Will I never learn!?! Will it never stop? Lash me with a wet noodle and keel-haul me.
User ID: 7873223 Mar 13th 5:47 PM
Some people are still using foregroud miniatures, at least they're advertising it! Check it out at
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 6:15 PM
I checked out the site. Apparently it's over six years old! There are references to the "present year" as 1995, etc. Some of the stuff is nice. The Volcano needs a little aerial diffusion but is well crafted. The railroad stuff is kick! Fun stuff. Check it out.
User ID: 9656233 Mar 13th 7:01 PM
Well, actually, they refer to winning an Emmy in 1995, but also make reference to movies like "SPACE COWBOYS, ROCKETS RED GLARE (Fox), ARMAGEDDON, DEEP IMPACT"-- obviously more recent. Space Cowboys was just last year, if I recall correctly. I didn't find the reference you mentioned, but it may be that the wording throughout hasn't been updated.
An older, interesting example of an in-camera shot is one Mario Bava staged at the beginning of Caltiki-The Immortal Monster (1960), one of the better flesh-eating blob movies and the only movie to give me nightmares (as a kid). Early on there’s a night shot of a volcano erupting in the distance, seen through foreground trees (aquarium element); after a moment, an actor moves into the extreme foreground of the shot, pauses to look off to the volcano, and then the camera pans with him as he continues to walk over to a full live action set of their campsite (or whatever). Black-and-white helps, but it still a really great, atmospheric shot in which the sudden interaction by a real person leading to a live action set is quite startling and effective.
More recently, another example of foreground miniatures was the work Gene Warren, Jr., did on the mini-series Attila which aired a short while back. Gene has always had a knack for that kind of thing, and the shots were really nice (the show itself was surprisingly good, too). I’m sure that will be out on VHS or DVD soon.
I would always prefer to do foreground miniatures, also, but sometimes it's just that same sad story-- the economics rule the day (and that includes money *and* available time). Not even so much a question of the cost of the miniatures themselves but the commitment to everything it takes to photograph them. All of that has to fit into the overall scheme of the project you're doing. It was my choice to use motion control models for all the spacecraft in the HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, and, thankfully, the producers and HBO --to their credit-- backed me up 100%. We set up our own MoCo stage in a warehouse in Van Nuys for 9 months and it was great. Expensive, but that stuff was the bulk of the project, so it it was worth it. I went that way not only because I prefer the look of light hitting actual physical models (as opposed to being built-up from within via CGI, if you see what I mean), but in that case I was faced with depicting 1960's space program technology and realized that if it even hinted at looking like it was coming out of a 1990's computer there would be a "clash" of visual sensibilities.
The only CGI spacecraft was the Mercury capsule for Alan Shepard's flight in Episode 1, and that was because, unlike the Apollo spacecraft, Mercury only appeared in Episode 1 so I could not use the model elsewhere and amortize the cost of a model of the Mercury capsule over the rest of the episodes. So I saved about $41,000 on a model that could only have been used in one sequence. (See, even on an $85 million mini-series you hit a ceiling). (To their credit, I think the company that did the Mercury sequence, Area 51, did a great job. The difference is still discernible, if only subtly, but I think we got away with it for the one sequence).
We also built a CGI Saturn 1B rocket for Episode 3, seen mostly on the launch pad, including surrounding detail of Pad 34, for a similar reason-- Apollo VII was the only manned flight to use the S-IB, the rest being the Saturn V, for which we had a 3’ model and use of the 18’ Saturn V model built by Digital Domain for the movie Apollo 13. Ironically, that larger model was built for a specific shot in that movie so wasn’t fully detailed and didn’t end up being terribly useful to me. So even models can throw you if you’re not careful.
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 9:01 PM
Your work in the series was just great. You are correct about the scheduling conflicts inherent in foreground miniature work. This is especially true with "big name" stars who's time is worth more than the effects. Also, it ends up being all first unit stuff, where crew time can be at a premium.
But from a purely technical standpoint, it sure looks good. Again, "Honey I Blew Up the Kid" is one of my favorite movies. There are some really creative and ingenious uses in that film, especially when Rick Moranis and his sons visit the lab and enter the lobby, walk past the camera and guard station (Toby!)and they switch from the little kid in the forground to the actor in the giant costume. Superb. Perfect.
By contrast, the blue screen stuff is the usual blue screen stuff. The quality is good, but you KNOW it's blue screen. Such a difference. Anyone not that familiar with the movie should check it out. It's a textbook example of two techniques so obviously different within the confines of the same movie.
User ID: 9656233 Mar 13th 9:29 PM
Thanks for your compliment-- it was a once-in-a-lifetime project and, I'd have to say, the next best thing to actually going to the moon.
Sometimes you can set up FG miniatures as a 2nd Unit or 2nd camera, but yes, the crew situation, scheduling actors, weather-- all kinds of problems can wreak havoc.
I've never seen "Honey" actually-- I should catch up with that. Even so I would argue that compositing technology has come a long way since 1992 and I don’t know that that’s a fair criteria for today. The comparison between perspective shots and comps may be valid to some degree, but I prefer to look at more contemporary examples to make such judgments. I think that exterior miniatures shot in conditions similar to the live action plate could quite successfully be composited with today’s technology --and it’s getting better all the time-- thus, perhaps, blending the best of both worlds. And you don’t have to be ILM; I have had small-to-medium-size companies working for me put together utterly flawless (and that’s not a word I’m quick to use) composites, even when there were problems with the green screens or plates or whatever (I’m sometimes more pleased with “normal” shots in Earth to Moon, for example, that are actually composites that no one *ever* notices...). And at film-res, properly scanned and output digital comps are indistinguishable from first-generation, thus covering that particular advantage of using hanging miniatures. And, to use your example of the mountain on the Wonderworks website, one would have the additional flexibility of enhancing or tweaking aspects such as atmospheric haze, adding fire and smoke elements, intentional camera-shake, etc.
It’s all a grand toolbox, boys and girls; so often it comes down to who’s wielding the hammer (and why)...
User ID: 9656233 Mar 13th 9:46 PM
Um... well, that last bit maybe didn't come off quite right. That wasn't directed at anyone specifically, just a little notion on the importance of choices. I must have been a little "weightless" when I spewed that out...
User ID: 9196513 Mar 13th 10:33 PM
You guys continue to prove my point. Ahhhhh! It's so fun to be right. (No ego here folks.)
User ID: 9314413 Mar 13th 10:42 PM
I agree about some of the eletronic compositing. I use it to a large degree, as well. However, like stop motion, there seems to be a "craft" present in miniatures that seems vacant in most CGI and electronic stuff. From a production standpoint, certainly waiting until post to juggle the effects makes a lot of sense. But on a more tactile level, the sense of craftsmanship present using models is so appealing on so many basic human levels.
As you pointed out, you liked the look of light hitting a real model as opposed to something generated in cyber space. To be sure, this is an almost psychological effect. It's a lot like asking the average person on the street the difference between seeing something shot on video and something shot on film. They can't really put into words; indeed, most people use the term "film" and "video" interchangably. But inherently, they know the difference when they see it.
In the end, electronic composites and CGI are a lot like the difference between video and film or the difference between analog music and digital recording. My dad can always hear the difference between analog and digital, even without the presence of tape noise. He likens digital audio to painting a picture on a white picket fence. You can only get a sense of the picture as you move by, but in the end, there's always something missing between each picket. He says it has no "soul".
Perhaps that's the difference. While CGI and electronic compositing are as effecient as video tape, they just don't have the "soul" one finds in hand crafted miniatures or film.
User ID: 9656233 Mar 14th 0:32 AM
Well... yes, but you seem to have missed part of what I was saying. I was putting forth the notion of using physical miniatures, but compositing digitally. I am making a very clear distinction between CGI "buildings" (or whatever) and digital compositing, so to say "there seems to be a 'craft' present in miniatures that seems vacant in most CGI and electronic stuff" is jumbling all this up. I agree with everything you say about miniatures-- that was my whole point about "light hitting an object" and blah blah blah. My point is that digital compositing can be superior to film compositing, so combining physical miniatures with live action via digital comps is (or can be) very close to what one can achieve with on-set foreground miniatures --and-- offer even greater flexibility with additional enhancement. (All of the MoCo spacecraft in Earth to Moon were shot in two passes, beauty pass and infra-red screen pass, and comped digitally with photographic or live action images. No "electronic" compositing, no film opticals).
I understand everything you’re talking about regarding analog vs. digital, etc., and agree, except that digital compositing is not “video” per se, but a cleaner means for getting a composite shot to look as close to film as possible. In other words, film optical composites by nature step down one or more generations, by default. Digital does not. (There is no “video” involved-- let’s get rid of that notion right away). Now here’s where we may go our separate ways, because I don’t know what resources you have available to you, but the fact is I (and many others) have done plenty of film-res comps and outputs to film that intercut perfectly with the surrounding first generation live action, and far superior to any equivalent optical comp, and none of these look “electronic” or anything other than first generation film. There are a zillion examples-- Mighty Joe Young (the new one, obviously), Starship Troopers, Ghost in the Darkness... I dunno, on and on and on.
(I am not referring to CGI images --which have their own problems-- but the digital compositing of physical miniatures with live action.)
I wonder if what you are identifying as the “film quality” is precisely what digital compositing improves: i.e., no matte lines, natural blur, transparent objects with no tearing or fringing, no imperceptible dirt or added grain & contrast, no softness from generational loss or wetgate printing, etc. So what you think you’re perceiving as a “crisp” video-type image is actually just an absence of all the flaws of traditional compositing. To me, eliminating all those things and getting closer to an image that looks like we just set up a camera and filmed a thousand deadly alien insects charging at us over the wall is pretty much the point.
“It's a lot like asking the average person on the street the difference between seeing something shot on video and something shot on film. They can't
really put into words; indeed, most people use the term "film" and "video" interchangeably. But inherently, they know the difference when they see it.” Again, we are not talking about the same thing. You’re talking about the difference between something shot on film and something like the 11 O’Clock News or All in the Family shot on videotape. I’m talking about digital --not electronic-- compositing as an intermediate methodology combining 2 or more images shot on film (let’s leave CGI out of this for the moment). The whole point is to *maintain* the integrity of film and to utilize the intermediate technology to precisely eliminate those factors which would otherwise *degrade* the integrity of film (or, conversely, over-enhance it to make it look like video).
This can, of course, go too far; we did some film output tests of scenes from Earth to Moon because they needed film prints of two episodes for a big hoop-dee-doo screening at the White House, and the super hi-res output from D1 to film (at, I think 4K) was truly like “live video” and was awful. Amazing, but awful. We ended up outputting at 1K and it looked like--- film! And intercut flawlessly.
“While CGI and electronic compositing are as efficient as video tape, they just don't have the "soul" one finds in hand crafted miniatures or film.” I tend to agree with the CGI/miniatures analogy, as per my original post, but the electronic compositing/film is all mixed up. Electronic compositing implies Video Tape/Chroma-Key type stuff. Is that what you’re talking about? That’s not what I’m talking about. And the correct second half to the analogy would be not just “film” but “film opticals.” Sorry, but I just can’t see the justification to step backwards and wrestle with film opticals anymore.
I just don’t think that the film vs. video analogy holds, and I think we may be talking about two completely separate technologies. This harkens back to an earlier discussion we had in which you mentioned “hard edges” and things like that which make me think that we’re talking about different methodologies. Everything you have described that you dislike about digital comps are things I have seen routinely eliminated beyond my wildest expectations, including out-of-focus semi-transparent foreground objects against a green screen in which the image quality was maintained 100% in a way that a film optical could *never* hope to achieve, and so on. Any specific --recent-- examples of digital comps come to mind as examples of how the new technology shows no “soul”?
User ID: 9656233 Mar 14th 2:30 AM
(Man, can this guy get wound up, or WHAT?!)
I just got over the flu-- must be the residual medication. Woo-hoo!
User ID: 9314413 Mar 14th 7:37 AM
We're on the same page. I know the difference between video and digital output for film, etc. I also understand what you mean by using miniatures combined with digital compositing. Unfortunately, the majority of my work is in video and the lackluster budgets it seems to generate. So, yeah we probably are, to a certain degree, talking about two different mind sets.
My point had more to do with the attitude that producers have regarding "convenience" over "quality". There seems to be a trend about using electronic effects which are more complicated and expensive than some older, "traditional" effects. Yes, digital compositing can look as good as a foreground miniature; sometimes even better. The problem is that so many directors really don't understand either method enough to make the call intelligently.
This inherent lack of knowledge can lead to an electronic effect that is poorly planned and executed because of the "we'll fix it in post" attitude. Since digital compositing and CGI are both "post" effects, the lack of experience of the director, regardless of the budget, is going to impact how much post time there is to do the comps or create the CGI effect.
I guess my earlier rant had more to do with the "we'll fix it in post" attitude of producers and directors. When they think effects are merely push button conveniences as opposed to a craft that requires talent and dedication, then "push button" effects are what they end up with, too often. As I said, I work in video mostly, where this offense is indigeneous, it would seem.
That said, however, let me clarify that I feel one of the best things going these days is digital compositing instead of opticals. Having built optical printers and used for years in the past, the idea of no contrast build up and (finally) clean images is like manna from heaven. But, even in the "good old days" of special effects, compositing in post was still over used, in my opinion. But then again, I like the look of stop motion over CGI, too. So I guess bias plays a part in my view.
Hope your flu is better.
User ID: 9488873 Mar 14th 10:27 PM
Thanks for clearing all that up. I see what you mean now, more of the aesthetic/production take on things as opposed to a purely technical evaluation.
I quite agree that what we gain on the one hand we lose on the other-- speed and efficiency translate into reckless shearing of post-production schedules and I saw this trend begin (as did you and many others, I’m sure) with the advent of electronic editing, the AVID, etc. All great tools, but all too often the unfortunate byproduct seems to be an expectation of instantaneous results. I haven’t encountered that to ridiculous extremes, and have been pretty lucky in that most of the shows I’ve worked on have been supported by producers and studios who are keen on quality results, but that desire *still* has to “fit inside the box” as defined by available time and budget and those factors inevitably influence the choices one makes. (I think that it’s not always a case of producers being insensitive to the value of miniatures --or whatever-- but the simple reality that if all you can afford is a Volkswagen, it doesn’t matter how great that Porsche would be... At that point you’re faced with just doing the best you can with what you have to work with, something Ray Harryhausen, for example, has grappled with for most of his career.)
But I have *always* encountered the exasperating “fix it in post” attitude, long considered the magic cure-all. One example: In 1995-- I was in Prague supervising effects for Snow White - A Tale of Terror (the one in which Sigourney Weaver played the Wicked Queen). There were no effects scheduled one day so I was at the hotel and got this frantic call to come to the set. They sent the crew van to pick me up, drove me over to the studio, I went to the set-- “What’s up?” They were shooting the cave-in of the mine with the “Miners” (the equivalent of the Dwarves) falling into chasms, and the mechanical effects guys down from England had rigged stunt men on huge, 1”-thick cables. The AD said to me, “Will we see those cables?” And I said, “Well, *I* can see the cables... *you* can see the cables... probably the *film* will ‘see’ the cables... dya think?!!” “Yeah, but you can erase them, right...?” “Well... sure I can erase them, but I’m not budgeted to erase them, I haven’t planned to spend time erasing them...” I asked the effects guys why they didn’t you use a flying rig harness and steel wires to at least *attempt* to hide the support. And the reply --this time from effects guys, not producers-- was, “Well, we thought you’d just take them out...” (I love that word “just.”) I said, fine-- can I charge it to your budget...? SputtersputterBut...But... (The DP on Snow White nicknamed my test room in the basement of the studio in Prague “Ernieworld” so the catch phrase became, “Oh, no problem. We’ll just put it through Ernieworld...” like some kind of conveyor belt fast-food franchise.)
Since that time I have always had a calm, collected, just-between-us-effects-guys chat over a beer in pre-production to introduce the pre-emptive mindset that yes, I can fix that stuff, but please make every effort on your end to get it as close as you can to *not* needing to be fixed. Seems to help (as long as I mention it during the *first* beer...)
So unfortunately the problem exists beyond producers and studios. The extension of this problem is that it’s a no-win situation-- If you can’t “solve it” then it’s suddenly your fault for a problem you had nothing to do with in the first place; if you *do* solve it, then “what’s the problem?” You have effectively “erased” the problem. There IS no problem. So next time the same producer/director/cinematographer/etc will likely do the same thing because... it’s not a problem!
The short answer is, I hear ya...
But I’m tapped out on all this. Let’s get back to something more substantial and meaningful like Victoria Vetri’s nude scenes...
User ID: 9356783 Mar 14th 10:48 PM
Agreed. However I must say that, so many times, the producers end up paying for a Porsche anyway but end up with a Volkswagon because of squandered opportunities due to poor planning or a perception that "digital is better because it's digital".
"Ernieworld", eh? Ha. That's funny.
User ID: 9488873 Mar 15th 2:07 AM
I haven't run into that too much myself --certainly it happens to varying degrees and I've heard plenty of horror stories. Sometimes you wonder if the people around you have ever even *seen* a movie much less made one before. A lot of re-inventing the wheel each time out.
As far as the perception that "digital is better because it's digital" -- I actually encounter that more from the digital effects houses themselves more than producers. Of course, the effects houses have to push what they do because that's how they make a living, but it does approach trying to fit a square peg into a round hole sometimes.