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#41 Samuel Berger

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Posted 06 November 2017 - 09:58 PM

Star Wars; the opening shot where both models are in focus really sells the enormity of the two space craft.  

 

How do you get that kind of a shot?  How do you keep everything in focus as it moves away from the camera?

 

My guess would be lots of light, very wide lens, stopped down.

 

The surface of the Death Star was filmed outdoors in daylight.


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#42 KH Martin

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Posted 06 November 2017 - 10:43 PM

 

My guess would be lots of light, very wide lens, stopped down.

 

 

Yeah, plus long exposure times. Also an electronic follow focus. They had a tilt focus thing that let them keep the title crawl in focus, too.

 

My fave shots in the original SW are probably when the Falcon comes roaring out of the sun at the end ... the flare edge on the ship is just awesome. Also really like when the Falcon 'backs out of the garage' in the death star escape. Still amazed that was a programmed move, it just has this handmade feel like it was a highspeed shoot with a model being spun or thrown. I've never been that thrilled with the movie itself, but I find it to be a miracle of film editing, even now, and there are a few action vfx sequences that I've rewatched dozens of times.

 

Motion control work for models got very refined over time; 20 years later, I think mo-con was at its zenith with SPACE COWBOYS and EVENT HORIZON and STARSHIP TROOPERS, and then it, like the baby, got thrown out with the bathwater by most, in favor of doing nearly everything with CGI, instead of the mixing of techniques that made so many 90s flicks work so well.


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#43 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 06 November 2017 - 11:15 PM

 

I've heard a bit about The Wire over the years, but never saw an episode.  There's so many police shows that a man gets exhausted of them (and family sitcoms too).  

 

Perhaps a little off-topic, but The Wire is not really a 'police show'. In its first season, it concentrates on the activities of the police force, but in season two and later, its scope is far wider, and well worth a look. Don't be misled and think that it's merely a Police procedural.


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#44 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 12:54 AM

Yeah, plus long exposure times. Also an electronic follow focus. They had a tilt focus thing that let them keep the title crawl in focus, too.

 

My fave shots in the original SW are probably when the Falcon comes roaring out of the sun at the end ... the flare edge on the ship is just awesome. Also really like when the Falcon 'backs out of the garage' in the death star escape. Still amazed that was a programmed move, it just has this handmade feel like it was a highspeed shoot with a model being spun or thrown. I've never been that thrilled with the movie itself, but I find it to be a miracle of film editing, even now, and there are a few action vfx sequences that I've rewatched dozens of times.

 

Motion control work for models got very refined over time; 20 years later, I think mo-con was at its zenith with SPACE COWBOYS and EVENT HORIZON and STARSHIP TROOPERS, and then it, like the baby, got thrown out with the bathwater by most, in favor of doing nearly everything with CGI, instead of the mixing of techniques that made so many 90s flicks work so well.

 

I think one of the older documentaries it was a programmed stop motion move.  When you take another look at it you can see the stop motion in action.  Incredible stuff.


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#45 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 12:58 AM

Perhaps a little off-topic, but The Wire is not really a 'police show'. In its first season, it concentrates on the activities of the police force, but in season two and later, its scope is far wider, and well worth a look. Don't be misled and think that it's merely a Police procedural.

 

Maybe I'll start another topic, but the thing is when I was a kid watching recycled shows from the 60s during the 70s, police shows weren't the only things that used to be produced.  You had adventure shows, spy shows, scifi anthology like Twilight Zone and what have you.

 

I guess IntraVision didn't open new horizons for new scifi, much less scifi on TV.  That's too bad.  Whatever.


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#46 KH Martin

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 06:47 AM

 

I think one of the older documentaries it was a programmed stop motion move.  When you take another look at it you can see the stop motion in action.  Incredible stuff.

The Dykstraflex was programmed to move WHILE the exposure was underway, so it wasn't a traditional move-then-shoot stop motion setup; it was specifically designed as a continuous move so there'd be motion blur, as if they were shooting a moving object in realtime, so as to NOT give that staccato effect. (EDIT ADDON: I'm talking about the original film; I don't know how the recreated opening shot from SW that was made for an IMAX film years later was accomplished; maybe that one WAS done with conventional stop-motion, though if so I don't see how they could have gotten the sense of speed as well as scale, unless that shot wound up strobing like crazy.)

 

The only traditional stop motion dimensional animation I'm aware of in the film are the creatures on the 'chess set' aboard the FALCON, though most of the Walker shots in EMPIRE are realized with traditional stop motion (the stuff with the animals being ridden in Empire is 'go-motion' where there IS motion blur being added by the camera in additon to the work of the animators in conventional stop-motion work.)


Edited by KH Martin, 07 November 2017 - 06:49 AM.

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#47 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 07:24 AM

Some of the best stop-motion (well, "go-motion") work is probably the ED-209 for Robocop, which is almost convincing.

 

I must admit a certain soft spot for really well-done motion control. Witness the battle sequence from Star Trek VI which was probably done at the zenith of the technique. Yes, principally black backgrounds are better, and the whole thing is helped by superb conventional cinematography, writing and even performances, and I'm not sure whether it was composited on a very early digital system or done on optical printers - I suspect there's at least some cel animation in there for the torpedo hits either way.

 

 

It is presumably possible for CG to look like this, but I have not seen it. For instance, I suspect that the classic orange torpedo flares are real optical effects, and the slight reveal of the cloaked Bird of Prey when it fires, which is nothing more than an additive composite of the orange light cast by the torpedo, is subtle and realistic. The cloaking effect looks very much like a dissolve to a pass of the model shot through rippled glass, but that's not the point - it's a well-designed shot, using the disappearance of the spacecraft to beckon the eye over to the planet on the right side of frame. The use of a real pyrotechnic destruction is the icing on the cake, to the point where at least one subsequent movie recycled the shot shamelessly, without even flopping it.

 

Modern audiences might consider it pedestrian, but the result of that sort of thinking is something like the space battles in Star Trek: Nemesis, which look like a Playstation game by comparison.

 

But it's not just about technique. The feeble Star Trek V, for which ILM was not available to do the effects, was also an optical show and the comparison is just as stark. Like all these things it's a combination of time, money and knowledge.

 
P

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#48 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 08:42 AM

The Dykstraflex was programmed to move WHILE the exposure was underway, so it wasn't a traditional move-then-shoot stop motion setup; it was specifically designed as a continuous move so there'd be motion blur, as if they were shooting a moving object in realtime, so as to NOT give that staccato effect. (EDIT ADDON: I'm talking about the original film; I don't know how the recreated opening shot from SW that was made for an IMAX film years later was accomplished; maybe that one WAS done with conventional stop-motion, though if so I don't see how they could have gotten the sense of speed as well as scale, unless that shot wound up strobing like crazy.)

 

The only traditional stop motion dimensional animation I'm aware of in the film are the creatures on the 'chess set' aboard the FALCON, though most of the Walker shots in EMPIRE are realized with traditional stop motion (the stuff with the animals being ridden in Empire is 'go-motion' where there IS motion blur being added by the camera in additon to the work of the animators in conventional stop-motion work.)

 

Well, maybe whoever was narrating it got their signals confused.  But I found this clip, and to me it doesn't look like go motion.

 

https://youtu.be/GHFhp594RlU?t=81


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#49 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 08:52 AM

 

Some of the best stop-motion (well, "go-motion") work is probably the ED-209 for Robocop, which is almost convincing.

 

I must admit a certain soft spot for really well-done motion control. Witness the battle sequence from Star Trek VI which was probably done at the zenith of the technique. Yes, principally black backgrounds are better, and the whole thing is helped by superb conventional cinematography, writing and even performances, and I'm not sure whether it was composited on a very early digital system or done on optical printers - I suspect there's at least some cel animation in there for the torpedo hits either way.

 

 

It is presumably possible for CG to look like this, but I have not seen it. For instance, I suspect that the classic orange torpedo flares are real optical effects, and the slight reveal of the cloaked Bird of Prey when it fires, which is nothing more than an additive composite of the orange light cast by the torpedo, is subtle and realistic. The cloaking effect looks very much like a dissolve to a pass of the model shot through rippled glass, but that's not the point - it's a well-designed shot, using the disappearance of the spacecraft to beckon the eye over to the planet on the right side of frame. The use of a real pyrotechnic destruction is the icing on the cake, to the point where at least one subsequent movie recycled the shot shamelessly, without even flopping it.

 

Modern audiences might consider it pedestrian, but the result of that sort of thinking is something like the space battles in Star Trek: Nemesis, which look like a Playstation game by comparison.

 

But it's not just about technique. The feeble Star Trek V, for which ILM was not available to do the effects, was also an optical show and the comparison is just as stark. Like all these things it's a combination of time, money and knowledge.

 
P

 

 

Well, to me "2001 a Space Odyssey" still has the best SFX model shots.  Star Wars was able to refine the technique to tell a more dynamic story.  And I always wondered why the original Star Trek series didn't have 2001 like model shots of the Enterprise and everything else she encountered.  The models for the feature films look better, but I think still suffer from the TV image syndrome of the director or production crew feeling the need to light every inch of the ship, giving it a kind of model-like look.

 

I didn't much like Robert Wise's STTMP feature for the story and somewhat static film, but I think the model shots in that film beat the subsequent model shots in the sequels.


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#50 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 09:00 PM

I'm surprised anyone who's into 2001 thinks the first Trek is static! Both are too slow for me, although I like 2001 very much in other ways. It could just be at least half an hour shorter.


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#51 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 09:26 PM

Each model was shot separately in fact I think the Rebel Blockade Runner model was bigger than the Star Destroyer model, mainly because the Blockade Runner was first built to be the Millennium Falcon.
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#52 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 09:40 PM

I think Robert Wise commented that he felt it was important to show off the ship for the fans.  But, fans and critics alike panned that angle.  I think Paramount's thinking was that a "space movie" needed to show off "space stuff", and so let Wise do this thing (or they asked him to do it).


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#53 George Ebersole

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 09:45 PM

Each model was shot separately in fact I think the Rebel Blockade Runner model was bigger than the Star Destroyer model, mainly because the Blockade Runner was first built to be the Millennium Falcon.

 

I saw book in the mi 90s that said as much.  It even had a pic with a caption.


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#54 KH Martin

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 12:01 AM

I'm surprised anyone who's into 2001 thinks the first Trek is static! Both are too slow for me, although I like 2001 very much in other ways. It could just be at least half an hour shorter.

Different strokes, I wish 2001 was a half hour longer. I guess it was 18min longer at first, but then Kubrick made some cuts to the centrifuge, the first EVA, and probably to the space station docking. 

 

The first time I saw ST-TMP it seemed endless to me, but by the time there was a widescreen laserdisc version available, I had gotten converted to really digging the movie (in spite of all the many MANY things wrong with it, which I think have been discussed here under an old split-diopter thread.)

 

I really wish there was a 4K restoration of this, because TMP and 2001 are probably the first movies I'll watch in UHD (well, BLADE RUNNER too) when they're available. TMP really needs to be fixed up, and there's only so much that can be done, because the VFX elements are mostly all gone, there's no way to recomp the shots like they did for BLADE RUNNER's FINAL CUT.


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#55 KH Martin

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 12:07 AM

Each model was shot separately in fact I think the Rebel Blockade Runner model was bigger than the Star Destroyer model, mainly because the Blockade Runner was first built to be the Millennium Falcon.

There's also a small Blockade Runner, separately machined from aluminum, used just for the first shot. No way to get far enough back from the big one to make it look small.


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#56 George Ebersole

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 04:26 AM

Different strokes, I wish 2001 was a half hour longer. I guess it was 18min longer at first, but then Kubrick made some cuts to the centrifuge, the first EVA, and probably to the space station docking. 

 

The first time I saw ST-TMP it seemed endless to me, but by the time there was a widescreen laserdisc version available, I had gotten converted to really digging the movie (in spite of all the many MANY things wrong with it, which I think have been discussed here under an old split-diopter thread.)

 

I really wish there was a 4K restoration of this, because TMP and 2001 are probably the first movies I'll watch in UHD (well, BLADE RUNNER too) when they're available. TMP really needs to be fixed up, and there's only so much that can be done, because the VFX elements are mostly all gone, there's no way to recomp the shots like they did for BLADE RUNNER's FINAL CUT.

 

The original script had the three Klingon battlecruisers being released once V'Ger had gone up in sparks and evolved, but I seem to recall that the sequence was cut because both of budgetary and story issues.  The V'Ger thing supposed had entire galaxies stored and digitized, so if the Klingons from the beginning of the movie get released, then what about all the other junk V'Ger had stored?

 

That, and then you have to shoot the battle ... which, depending on how it was scripted, might not have made sense ... unless the newly evolved V'Ger thing came back and put a stop to it.  Which just means more animation composited with the model shots.  


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#57 KH Martin

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 08:23 AM

 

The original script had the three Klingon battlecruisers being released once V'Ger had gone up in sparks and evolved, but I seem to recall that the sequence was cut because both of budgetary and story issues.  The V'Ger thing supposed had entire galaxies stored and digitized, so if the Klingons from the beginning of the movie get released, then what about all the other junk V'Ger had stored?

 

That, and then you have to shoot the battle ... which, depending on how it was scripted, might not have made sense ... unless the newly evolved V'Ger thing came back and put a stop to it.  Which just means more animation composited with the model shots.  

Well, this is another story that has been retold so often the truth got buried. There wasn't ever a script containing what you mention here. But when Trumbull was unsuccessfully lobbying for an extension -- hoping to get the film's release postponed till Easter -- he suggested a way of plussing up the story at the end with what you describe, for which Andy Probert then did some very nice storyboard art.

 

But there was no progress toward actually doing any of this, which would have meant opening up the stages and doing ANOTHER live-action shoot during post (that's in addition to the other shoots done in post, including San Francisco, Epsilon 9, the klingons and the Spock spacewalk) that would have involved the Enterprise bridge set and crew, probably the engine room (since the Klingons would have struck there, leading to a saucer separation) and I guess the Klingon bridge again as well. Also, although there are conflicting reports on this, I'm pretty sure the Magicam model was not able to do a separation of the dish section, so that'd've meant additional miniatures that had to match to what had looked so glorious in the previous two hours. Would have been a huge undertaking. 

 

And I think it was just a trial balloon on Trumbull's part anyway. I think Probert spent more time thinking about it than Trumbull did. I got to talk with Trumbull several years ago, and since I'm obsessed with this weird movie's twisted production anyway, I asked a few questions about this. His memory of that whole experience was mainly about how ill he became because of the workload. He remembered Andy Probert, but nothing about this idea at all, though it is well documented in some making-of books.  


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#58 George Ebersole

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 11:20 AM

Well, this is another story that has been retold so often the truth got buried. There wasn't ever a script containing what you mention here. But when Trumbull was unsuccessfully lobbying for an extension -- hoping to get the film's release postponed till Easter -- he suggested a way of plussing up the story at the end with what you describe, for which Andy Probert then did some very nice storyboard art.

 

But there was no progress toward actually doing any of this, which would have meant opening up the stages and doing ANOTHER live-action shoot during post (that's in addition to the other shoots done in post, including San Francisco, Epsilon 9, the klingons and the Spock spacewalk) that would have involved the Enterprise bridge set and crew, probably the engine room (since the Klingons would have struck there, leading to a saucer separation) and I guess the Klingon bridge again as well. Also, although there are conflicting reports on this, I'm pretty sure the Magicam model was not able to do a separation of the dish section, so that'd've meant additional miniatures that had to match to what had looked so glorious in the previous two hours. Would have been a huge undertaking. 

 

And I think it was just a trial balloon on Trumbull's part anyway. I think Probert spent more time thinking about it than Trumbull did. I got to talk with Trumbull several years ago, and since I'm obsessed with this weird movie's twisted production anyway, I asked a few questions about this. His memory of that whole experience was mainly about how ill he became because of the workload. He remembered Andy Probert, but nothing about this idea at all, though it is well documented in some making-of books.  

 

That's interesting, because I could have sworn I saw the concept sketches or storyboards for the Klingon release sequence.  Either way it never happened.

 

I just remember leaving the theatre down in LA (in some mall...I can't remember which one) and thinking that I hadn't seen much of anything.  I still liked the idea of a big feature film, but I think my unarticulated boyish subconisous mind noted; the Enterprise only killed an asteroid (and only with one shot); no phasers were fired, Kirk didn't get into a fist fight, Spock uses his neck pinch one time, I saw way too much of the ship, and no red-shirts got zapped.

 

Oh well.


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#59 KH Martin

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Posted 09 November 2017 - 08:15 AM

Well, like I said, Probert did some sketches to illustrate Trumbull's idea and go beyond what he suggested, and these are reproduced in a few places like THE ART OF STAR TREK, so maybe you saw them there.

 

My initial response to the movie was largely the same as yours, except a LOT more negative -- way too much of a s-l-o-w ripoff of THE CHANGELING, when I'd been hoping for BALANCE OF TERROR, or maybe THE IMMUNITY SYNDROME (that's the one with the big amoeba, but more importantly it is very character-centric on Spock and the Doctor, PLUS reuses the great music from THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE.)

 

My shorthand perception (which actually ignores a couple of my favorites that aren't typical eps, like THE EMPATH and RETURN TO TOMORROW) of good TREK was, "ship fires its guns and Kirk gets his shirt ripped' and TMP had precious little of the one and none of the other. I was so ticked off I didn't even let myself get seduced by the cloud visuals, which in retrospect were some of the most beautiful shots ever attempted back then, but my positive takeaways were primarily just the Goldsmith score and (most) of the miniature work, which I still think is just gorgeous, especially given the time pressure involved.

 

Don't know if you're aware, but a redshirt -- well, a helmeted security guy -- did get zapped in the rough cut, when the glowy thing invades the bridge, but Dykstra's group couldn't get the whole sequence done in time, so they dropped that portion, which happens before the probe wanders around the bridge and buzzes Chekov. It was the only time you'd have seen somebody shooting a hand phaser in the film, since the other scene, when Spock shoots vger antibodies that are mistaking Kirk for Rachel Welch, also got thrown away when Trumbull came in and started fixing the mess that was left for him.

 

Ah, the coffee finished brewing!


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#60 George Ebersole

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Posted 09 November 2017 - 11:23 AM

 

My guess would be lots of light, very wide lens, stopped down.

 

The surface of the Death Star was filmed outdoors in daylight.

 

I wonder if that's also how the SFX team for The Motion Picture got the Enterprise shots when she was still in space dock.  I mean talk about giving a thing scale, everything's in focus as like setting a camera down on a navy ship or supertanker and taking a few snaps.  To me that's a real art.


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