Monday 6 June 2016

More Movie Miniatures

As regular readers will know, I'm fascinated by the behind-the-scenes process on films, especially special effects work with miniatures and/or matte paintings.  Back in October 2014 I posted my first miniatures blog (which you can read here) and have subsequently written ones about the James Bond series (featuring John Richardson and Derek Meddings, the latter of whom also got a special 'appreciation' post) and ILM.

Miniatures are scale models which are used to represent things that aren't there, are too expensive or difficult to film in reality, or which can't be damaged (by fire, flood or explosion) in real life.  They've now largely been replaced by (often terrible) CGI but the old ways, the fine art, does seem to be making something of a comeback.

I decided it was time to post about them again and hopefully I can highlight films where it's not immediately obvious that you're looking at a miniature.

Superman (1978, directed by Richard Donner)
special effects supervised by Derek Meddings
The large-scale miniature of the Golden Gate Bridge, where Superman saves the kids on the school bus
Blade Runner (1982, directed by Ridley Scott)
special effects supervised by Douglas Trumbull
For the magnificent "Hades" opening sequence, Trumball's team (the Entertainment Effects Group) created a skyline with thousands of acid-etched brass plates.  These were lit by fibre-optic lights and set on a forced-perspective layout, with lots of smoke added to the shot to create layers of diffusion that made it all look so much bigger.  Superb work.  The flames were added in later.

Poltergeist (1982, directed by Tobe Hooper)
visual effects supervised by Richard Edlund
ILM's Paul Huston with the 'giant skull' miniature
Ghostbusters (1984, directed by Ivan Reitman)
special effects supervised by Richard Edlund
The Stay Puft Man heads across Central Park to get the Ghostbusters...
Aliens (1986, directed by James Cameron)
special effects supervised by John Richardson
Filming on the miniature Queen Alien set - director James Cameron is directly behind the camera
Bad Taste (1987, directed by Peter Jackson)
special effects by Peter Jackson
Made on a shoestring, this is a brilliant and incredibly inventive film for which Jackson designed and created the effects himself.  The first time I watched this, back in the late 80s - goggle-eyed at the exuberance of it - I didn't realise the house they destroy wasn't real.
Darkman (1990, directed by Sam Raimi)
special effects (miniatures) supervised by Robert Skotak
Robert Skotak on one of his miniature sets
Tremors (1990, directed by Ron Underwood)
special effects supervised by Stephen Brien
Robert Skotak filming a graboid on the miniature set of the Gummers basement
Cape Fear (1991, directed by Martin Scorsese)
special effects supervised by Derek Meddings
Derek Meddings and his crew help the Bowden family (and Max Cady) on the river
Speed (1994, directed by Jan DeBont)
special effects supervised by Boyd Shermis and Grant McCune
Working on the subway car miniatures (built by the Grant McCune shop)
Dante's Peak (1997, directed by Roger Donaldson)
special effects supervised by Richard Stutsman and Dean Miller
The large-scale bridge miniature
Shutter Island (2010, directed by Martin Scorsese)
visual effects supervised by Robert Legato

There will be more miniature posts to come...

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