Saturday, January 15, 2011

Children of the Hydra's Teeth - Part One

After the "Clash of the Titans" remake was released last year I wanted to start this series -that should give you some idea of how backed up with mediocre ideas I am.

Like many in our field, Ray Harryhausen's work had a strong impact on young mind.  For me, it was "Jason and the Argonauts", especially.  Not the animation and effects, per se, but the script.  Fortunate for later intellectual development, this film was my first introduction to Nietzsche so that by the time I was handed a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" in the 9th Grade I could see through it's garbled prose the sad shadow of thought it was.

Beyond the film's lessons about Man's role in overcoming the crutch of god, it gives us even more important lessons in what makes special effects work.  How the simple things (combined with good animation) make the combination seem real.

This series will take several, non-consecutive, posts.

First, there is (pretty much) no compositing, no mattes. 

The combination is done through projection.  The live action is filmed.  It's later projected on the stop motion set and refilmed, one frame at a time.

Above you see the full live shot.  Note the ground and the color of the sky.

A few shots later, same camera angle.  The vibrancy of the  sky has degenerated (it's now a copy of the a copy) and the ground is now the stop motion set.

You see in the foreground center the little mound.  That's the beginnings of a skeleton popping up.  We see it start to animate, then cut to:

Close up of ground breaking.

That single cut, from wide to close, establishes geography.  That very simple animation in the wide shot lets us know that what we're seeing in the close is in the same world.

The effect in the wide shot could have even been done without animation.  It could have been a practical effect on set like some kind of puppetry.  The important thing is to see the earth break in the "live action world" which has been established.  That's the gateway to the animation.

More tomorrow.

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