>8mm planetary approach

>I’ve always been into visual effects in the movies. I have whole shelves full of ”Making Of’ books and a pile of Cinefex magazines that may soon collapse under its own gravity. What better place to recall some of my own humble efforts at emulating the FX masters than this blog?

I made my first SF spectacular as a teenager – along with my good friends Phil and Andy. Called Matt Line Tidies Up The Universe, it was filmed using the miracle of plasticene animation in glorious Super-8mm. The opening shot of Matt Line shows our hero’s spaceship (constructed by yours truly out of left-over Airfix kit parts) approaching the planet on which the beautiful Princess Arriflex is being held prisoner by the Evil Lord Multiplane.

In true Cinefex style, I’ll tell you how the shot was achieved. We waited until after dark to get a true blackout, then hung the ship on black cotton out in Phil’s back yard. We lit it with a single 200W bulb and shot it in the top half of the frame with a slow, steady zoom out. We then (a terrifying process this) took the film cassette out of the camera and wound it back using a temperamental cranking device. Next step was to point the camera at a previously-prepared photo of the Earth from an astronomy book, only we put a red gel over the lens to make it look all alien and, well, red. By positioning the planet in the bottom half of the shot, we made sure it didn’t overlap with the ship.

So there you go. A simple double exposure. Stationary planet, judicious use of zoom to give the ship the illusion of movement. Bingo!

I don’t visit YouTube much but when I do I’m amazed at the technical skill of some of the amateur film-makers out there. However, nostalgia dictates that I should call the old 8mm generation to arms and celebrate the good old days. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my share of animation using CGI software and non-linear editing. I love the new ways. The joke is that half the rigs I’ve built in 3DSMax are virtual replicas of the kind of string-and-sealing-wax affairs we used to build in the old days.

More 8mm FX memories to come include the Demonic Dressing Gown, Tyrell Corp Homage and What Bleach Does To Kodachrome. If you’re lucky, I’ll dig out some stills!

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