Star Wars Prequels Miniatures Film

Jedi News had a link to a scene cut from a documentary called “Sense of Scale,” where Lorne Petersen, Danny Wagner, and Fon Davis discuss the use of miniatures and prosthetics in the prequels. It’s really interesting:

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9 Responses to “Star Wars Prequels Miniatures Film”

  1. peacetrainjedi Says:

    Thanks for that link LP. Behind the scenes stuff is fascinating, and I’ve always loved miniatures in films, especially in Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. The amount of time, work, and dedication to craft them is impressive.

  2. Adam D. Bram (The Nilbog) Says:

    Nice to see Rick McCallum get some praise.

    • Stefan Kraft Says:

      I like that. I also remember an article on the Cantina Cast (I think) where the considerable and important input of Richard Marquand during the making of RotJ was presented. Such information unfortunately gets overlooked more often than not (and has probably lead to the “surrounded by yes men” meme).

  3. Stefan Kraft Says:

    I am not sure whether I have really a good overview of the “Behind the Scene” material released back in 1999 (I was only 14, and my internet connection was limited to glorious 56k). However, it may indeed be true what Kyle Newman has stated: the marketing rather focused on the CGI and less on the amount of practical effects and models (and real sets) that were used. Newman has suggested that this was done to emphasize that cutting-edge technology was used for making the PT. Unfortunately, it may also have lead to the common misconception that the PT was only CGI.

  4. Jim Raynor Says:

    Good to see that the truth is coming out more and more on the use of “practical effects” in the Prequels.

    The entire issue is a manufactured controversy though, made up by aging Original Trilogy fanboys who don’t make a peep about the extensive use of CGI in other recent blockbusters.

    The Avengers is one of the biggest mainstream hits and geek approved movies ever. Yet its big climactic Battle of New York was almost all green screen CGI:

    Jeff White, ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: “It’s a movie that takes place in New York, but in the end, except for the the aerial plate shoot that we did, we were only able to have the principle actors in New York for a couple of days. So, for the majority of the time that you see them, you know, down on the viaduct, down on 42nd Ave., it’s them in New Mexico, you know, on a green screen set”…

    “There’s quite a few restrictions about shooting in New York, and where you can get road closures, and where you can set off pyro, which isn’t very much…”

    Here’s a behind the scenes look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was hailed as Marvel’s “grittiest” and most “realistic” movie so far for its extensive use of “practical effects”:

    As you can see, the ships and much of the interior scenery were CGI as well. Of course Marvel wasn’t going to build a huge underground hangar for three flying aircraft carriers in real life, right? It’s not just practical constraints though, but the level of detail as well. Look closely at how those Helicarriers fall and break apart. Much more intricate than the single fireball explosions of the Original SW Trilogy.

    Even relatively mundane scenes like an office with a great window view of DC were CGI, as you can see toward the end of that video. The alternative would have been to shoot in a real office, but one that was as spacious and eye pleasing probably doesn’t exist in reality.

    Here’s another Winter Soldier video:

    Victoria Alonso, Executive Producer: “There was about 2,500 visual effects shots…Every year that goes by, um, we come to rely more and more and more on the tools, and the beautiful thing is we continue to create the efficiencies of the digital era. We utilize everything that is up to date and more…”

    By all accounts, Anthony Mackie had a blast playing the flying hero Falcon. But watch his part about 3 minutes into that video – Most of it was hanging on a harness in front of a green screen. It’s a miracle that he was able to get into character and feel the emotions of his role with no physical settings to immerse himself in!

    The CGI use was so extensive that even the view from a glass elevator was fake:

    Man, what a soulless cartoon spectacle that was!

    Even lower budget TV shows with realistic settings and plots are using lots of CGI these days:

    http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Video-Reveals-Amazing-Green-Screen-Shots-You-Never-Would-Have-Guessed-36044.html

    Look at that. They were using CGI for regular street scenes on Ugly Betty.

    That’s because, as Jeff White explained, you can’t just shut down streets and shoot wherever you want. The alternative is to just not write any scenes that require a variety of exterior locations, like they did decades ago. If you back and watch some old TV shows, you’ll notice that they relied quite heavily on boring, lifeless stock footage to give you a brief idea of the locations, before doing most of their scenes in small confined rooms on a set.

    Despite how much a lot of them pay lip service to “practical effects,” people who actually work in the entertainment industry use CGI because shooting something for real is often the furthest thing from “practical.”

    Everyone, from the filmmakers to the viewers, has benefited greatly from the proliferation of visual effects. Fanboys themselves love the eye candy in the Marvel movies, Avatar, etc. They’ve just been brainwashed into whining about it in the Star Wars Prequels.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      Pretty much!

    • Stefan Kraft Says:

      The funny thing is, this is one of the things that GL has envisioned: making it easier (or even possible) for filmmakers to get the scenes they want. Now, there will always be the discussion whether some scenes are only brainless spectacle while not contributing to the story, but I suspect that this discussion is as old as cinema itself.

      I also agree with Jim that this whole “soulless CGI in the prequels” meme is just wrong. Yes, there are people who did not enjoy the prequels and were not satisfied by the story. That’s something we all can accept (as long as the Saga fans are not bashed for liking or loving Ep. I-III). However, criticism should use correct arguments, and the whole “only CGI in the prequels is one reason the prequels were a failure” is just plain wrong – first, because it was *not* all CGI, and second because some critics do not have any problems with the CGI in recent blockbusters.

      Regarding the whole “the acting in the prequels is bad because the entire movies were shot in front of green screens so that the actors did not know what was happening around them”: I accept that real sets probably make it sometimes easier for actors to “get the feel” and to immerse themselves in their roles. However, modern theatre often uses minimalist sets, and it still works – I have not read about any complaints that the acting has become worse because of that. Not to forget all the green screen scenes in modern movies mentioned by Jim.

      It is just unfortunate that criticism of the prequels more often than not degenerates into the repetition of the usual memes, and you cannot even tell whether the critic has come to these conclusions by himself or he is just repeating the usual stuff he has read elsewhere. If you criticize something, give me at least some new insights. I may not agree, but at least I can learn something from it.

      I have just realized that this comment has become longer than expected and that I have heated up a bit… Sorry.

    • Tony Ferris Says:

      Jim said everything I might have been inclined to say, and probably much better, but I would add that I find myself frustrated by this debate more on the notion that it even matters what process is used to create a particular effect.

      Movies are all fakery. Unless it’s a documentary, we’re dealing in fiction. Some people claim an aesthetic aversion to CG. It’s an aversion I mostly believe to be affected, because in general most people can’t tell when computer graphics are being employed accept where it’s plainly obvious. Like for instance, when we’re watching talking apes, homunculoid hobbits, or a green rampaging rage monster. Some will even decry the use of computers, when the effect is plainly practical.

      Christopher Nolan can insist on not using blue screens, but it’s no trick to film barren planet-scapes on barren earth-scapes, no matter how well shot they might be. Try building cityscapes. Try showing planets whose entire square footage is covered with massive, hulking skyscrapers. Try moving between those skyscrapers and placing your characters inside that fully realised, absolutely fantastical environment. Try creating environments that look nothing like that which exists on earth, or even just shooting somewhere earthbound that is too treacherous to reach, or simply hampered by mundane legal restrictions.

      Where do we draw the line, is my point? Is forced perspective permissible? Wire rigs? Matte Paintings? Prosthetics? Animatronics? Miniatures? Is it only the intangibles to which we should object? Digital environments? Digital characters? Unless they’re played by Andy Serkis obviously. Something tells me that the fathers of cinema, the Eisensteins, the Griffith’s, the Méliès’ of long ago would have loved the ability to dream, which digital cinema might have afforded them. Certainly, I believe Méliès would have. But we can’t I suppose, determine the preferences of dead men, so I’ll move on.

      There’s a very famous scene early in It’s a Wonderful Life. There’s a dance in the school gymnasium. Now, beneath the floor is a swimming pool and in the course of events the floor is accidentally retracted, with most of the patrons ending up wet. At the time many denounced this as ‘Hollywood fakery’, believing it to have been staged on a specially constructed set, but I tend to think, ‘so what!?’ It’s a story. Believability is necessary to become absorbed in the narrative, but if we’re going to view cinema with the kind of jaundiced eye that’s constantly looking for the rigging, then we’d really be better off not bothering at all.

      For the record that gym floor was real, and was located at Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles, but that’s entirely irrelevant.

      The reaction against digitally created visual effects is to my mind, little more than nostalgia turned to self-righteous indignation. The notion that something not caught ‘in camera’ is somehow ‘false’, that it’s dishonest, that it’s ‘Hollywood fakery’ feels like so much bunkum to me. Use it, don’t use but don’t think yourself a hero, or somehow more sincere an artist for turning your back on it, because you’re not.

      And while we’re on the subject; are we really to believe that this…

      http://imgur.com/p5uJfZX

      … is demonstrably better than this…

      http://imgur.com/UwOqc3Z

      ?

      The difference of course, is that the first effect looks about as good as it ever will, whereas the second can develop into this…

      http://imgur.com/owg0qyN

      … or this…

      http://imgur.com/XTCAdsk

      … or this…

      http://imgur.com/avxdRMD

      Honestly, what a thoroughly tiresome debate. But nice work with your breakdown Jim. Well done.

    • blade57hrc Says:

      You don’t get it, do you?
      When Lucas does it, it’s bad!
      When everyone else does it, it’s ok!
      lol

      Here are 2 answers to comments of mine on YT:
      (i warn you…major facepalms on the way,,,)

      1) Noah White
      5:43 π.μ.
      +Ira ProV I’ve always thought that creatures, sets, vehicles (includes spaceships), and props should be there because they are meant to be in front of these characters and, as a plus, improves the actors performance because they are seeing what these characters are seeing and put their reaction into their character’s reaction. Things that obviously would look bad if really built include magic-type special effects and laser/blaster/certain types of explosions. Those I think can be done digitally if they want. In fact, to show how seamlessly it was blended, the trailer only has one piece of CGI in the whole trailer which was the light saber. Everything else was practical.which was the light saber. Everything else was practical.

      2) seraduha1
      Χθες 11:29 μ.μ.
      +Ira ProV No, just that the motion capture was done badly. 
      (which was in respones to a previous comment of mine which read:
      ”The Clones were motion-captured (and in ROTS by actual soldiers no less). So..what youre saying essentially is that people move…fake & unnatural”)

      Screw logic….

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