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Flash Gordon (1980)


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 03:24 AM

I've always been amazed with the style and visuals in the otherwise rather campy comic book pic. Even today in this digital age I love the look of this film (the women's costumes didn't hurt either). I am actually kinda amazed what they were able to do without computers particularly with the clouds. (I'm assuming fishtanks of colored oils and massive green-screen?) Does anyone else love this movie the way I do and have any technical insight into how it was done? Long live Ming! :D

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 07 May 2008 - 03:26 AM.

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#2 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 03:32 AM

You are not alone:) Love it and yes i still love the soundtrack., especially the score.
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#3 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 04:44 AM

Your correct about the oil in water , i was working at Shepperton Studios when it was being shot saw Mings Palace a model about 20 ft tall on a a very large stage which had a massive blue screen .
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#4 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 05:18 AM

... I always thought it was a bit sad that the director of 'Get Carter' ended up doing tosh like Flash Gordon...
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 05:24 AM

I still, from time to time, when my wife is putting on her seat belt in the car, say Topol's line from the launch scene, "Strap yourselves down!" I say it almost exactly as he does. She laughs. She still laughs at all my lame and corny gags.
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 07:34 AM

I still, from time to time, when my wife is putting on her seat belt in the car, say Topol's line from the launch scene, "Strap yourselves down!" I say it almost exactly as he does. She laughs. She still laughs at all my lame and corny gags.


I hope you take really good care of her and look after her. It sounds like you are both having a fun time! :)

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Freya
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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 07:41 AM

Your correct about the oil in water , i was working at Shepperton Studios when it was being shot saw Mings Palace a model about 20 ft tall on a a very large stage which had a massive blue screen .


Hang on, what was the blue screen for if there were no computers, or was there an electronic keying system of some other kind?

John you are always hinting at all these stories!
So what were you shooting at Shepperton at the same time as Flash!
I bet you have worked on loads of amazing films.

"Flash a-ah, he saved everyone of us!" (I think I have seen this movie!) ;)

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Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 07 May 2008 - 07:41 AM.

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#8 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 11:24 AM

It would have been a commercial something like babys nappies cant remember . Blue Screen was used to produce a Travelling Matt not electronic but Optical was used for donkeys years .Star Wars is good example of it VFX plates shot using VistaVision cameras , they got it right "Flash " shot their blue screen using Todd-AO 35 mm anamorphics thats why the effects tend to look a bit poop . By the way blue screen is still used a lot now even with "computers ".
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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:20 PM

It would have been a commercial something like babys nappies cant remember . Blue Screen was used to produce a Travelling Matt not electronic but Optical was used for donkeys years .Star Wars is good example of it VFX plates shot using VistaVision cameras , they got it right "Flash " shot their blue screen using Todd-AO 35 mm anamorphics thats why the effects tend to look a bit poop . By the way blue screen is still used a lot now even with "computers ".


Wow! I guess I was kind of thinking that blue screen was something that came along with video, and the whole idea of chroma blue but I guess there was a whole optical process using filters to remove the blue bit! I've been doing some reasearch and I'm only starting to vaguely understand it! It almost seems like magic!

Facinating stuff!

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#10 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:24 PM

Freya , " The Magic of the Movies " have fun researching it . John .
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#11 Paul Bruening

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:37 PM

Hey John,

Speaking of Star Wars and movie magic, I bought one of the two steppered, geared heads off of Ken Stone that was used to get those moco, tracking shots of the various, ship models in SW. Ken got them from ILM.
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#12 Mitch Gross

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:40 PM

Blue screen and optical matting was around for many decades before computers were added to the mix. I believe Flash Gordon's effects were chronicled in either American Cinematographer or Cinefex at the time.

Surely Max Von Sydow's finest work after Strange Brew.
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#13 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:45 PM

Paul have you used them? or do you keep them in the car as another form of amusement for your wife ? john .
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#14 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:46 PM

It would have been a commercial something like babys nappies cant remember . Blue Screen was used to produce a Travelling Matt not electronic but Optical was used for donkeys years .Star Wars is good example of it VFX plates shot using VistaVision cameras , they got it right "Flash " shot their blue screen using Todd-AO 35 mm anamorphics thats why the effects tend to look a bit poop . By the way blue screen is still used a lot now even with "computers ".


Actually FLASH GORDON did use a prototype digtial compositing system developed by Frank Van Der Veer. It was a 3000 line video system with effects shot on film, transfered to video for compositing and then put back on film. Matte lines are really minimal in FLASH GORDON, but unfortunately the replacement side effect was transparency of some composites. Regardless, they were very innovative and let's be honest, against the not very good optical travelling matte work seen in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and SUPERMAN II the same year, FLASH GORDON had great bluescreen work.

There is a buit of a pre-PHANTOM MENACE "virtual set" vibe to FLASH GORDON, in that alot of it was bits of sets built before big bluescreens, the rest achieved mixing models with matte paintings.

As John mentions, the miniatures for FLASH GORDON were shot in Britain by Richard Conway's team. All of the opticals and mattes were done in LA at VAN DER VEER PHOTO. It was that time when Britain couldn't really compete with American optical work (lots of small UK boutique optical shops that could only a do a few bits at a time unlike the Hollywood factories like ILM and Van Der Veer).

I am a big fan of the movie FLASH GORDON, and like BARON MUNCHAUSEN a few years later (that by coincidence Richard Conway also did the special effects for) it's all about a British based director going overboard with the pastiche Fellini design excess.

Gilbert Taylor's high res photography is stunning, particuarly all of the glossy net work and dry ice (Ming's extrance). I do really like the smokey "WICKER MAN"-esque opening shots of Scotland at the mini airport too, which look like additional DP Harry Waxman probably shot them.
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#15 Serge Teulon

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 12:52 PM

I still remember sitting in the cinema watching this film....I couldn't even eat my bag of sweets!! :o
Would a re-make be out of the question?

S
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#16 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:07 PM

"Actually FLASH GORDON did use a prototype digtial compositing system developed by Frank Van Der Veer. It was a 3000 line video system with effects shot on film, transfered to video for compositing and then put back on film. Matte lines are really minimal in FLASH GORDON, but unfortunately the replac
ement side effect was transparency of some composites "

Tim do you know what scenes used this 3000 line system ? seems very low res on an anamorphic image .
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#17 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:16 PM

I don't know exactly and have heard conflicting arguments about how much was video composited.

Here's a brief bit on it though from http://www.theasc.co...rum2/page1.html

"During that era, computers and their encompassing ?digital? aspects became the basis of experiments within the usually time-consuming realm of optical printing. Over 17 years, Barry Nolan and Frank Van Der Veer (of Van Der Veer Photo) built a hybrid electronic printer that, in 1979, composited six two-element scenes in the campy sci-fi classic Flash Gordon. Using both analog video and digital signals, the printer output a color frame in 9 seconds at 3,300 lines of resolution. If optical printing seemed time-consuming, the new methods weren?t exactly lightning-fast, either, and the look couldn?t yet compete with the traditional methods."

I still don't think there is one compositing scene in FLASH GORDON that comes anywhere near the visual grubbiness of the Hoth Battle from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
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#18 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:23 PM

Thanks for that . Empire Hoth battle was very difficult to do . Snowscapes and daytime shots with space ships and walkers !! a blue screen nightmare .
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#19 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:26 PM

What, and a psychadelic Fellini LSD trip of a city in space with loads of space rockets and Hawkmen is peasy?? :huh:
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#20 John Holland

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:30 PM

No i love "Flash" i was comparing it to the 1st "Star Wars" which had loads of black space which is easier to hide the matte lines .
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