H1-RACER SPEED RECORD:
This sequence utilizes a broad variety of visual effects including an extensive use of a Radio Controlled 1/2 scale model of the H1. The concept here was to create the same action and photographic limitations that a real plane would have given you. This model was shot from a helicopter with a Vistavision camera (to facilitate post pan and tilt as well as a blowup) and created the same exact run the real speed trial demanded. The RC plane was also photographed from the ground in an appropriate perspective to create the illusion that the miniature was flying down the middle of the runway. (In actuality it is 4 times closer to lens to appear to be in the right spot). Although we kept the CGI opportunities to a minimum for set extensions involving Leonardo DiCaprio, six shots were created and modeled in Lightwave. DiCaprio was photographed on the green screen cockpit, which was mounted on a motion base. (Same previz, motion base technique explored in the previous Hell's Angels sequence.)
The crash landing was devised to be all in camera with a modest amount of wire and crew removal. (See photographs on page 5 of the Special Effects Section.)
HUGHES NEWSREEL FOOTAGE:
Leonardo DiCaprio was shot on green screen and film was distressed, tracked, and grained before being inserted into the authentic footage. To create and mimic the moving footage, the plates were stabilized and blown-up to create a lock off. A monitor was placed in the actor's eye line where he could see a mirrored image facsimile of himself over the real Howard Hughes. He was cued in the same manner as an ADR session as he then mimicked the same exact head and shoulder rotations per the plate. The lighting was carefully matched and the skill of the actor produced an exact performance match.
This sequence demonstrates the 3 Strip Technicolor effect to its fullest. Since the lighting conditions are identical to some of the exterior scenes in a film like "Robin Hood" the Technicolor emulation is the most similar to the images we conjure up when we think of the color films of the 30's and 40's.
Although the Technicolor effect is used throughout the movie, part of the illusion to that era has to do with the hard lighting, heavy makeup and primary color art direction that typified those films. Our modern sensibilities, faster film stocks, soft lighting, muted color palette, and naturalistic makeup are not part of our sense memory of Technicolor and the effect is reminiscent but not as striking. Our goal for the picture was to take our modern and more sophisticated film making style and simply film it with our equivalent of a 3 Strip Technicolor camera. (See photographs on page 10 of this section.)
XF-11 SPY PLANE IN HANGAR:
This scene is an example of an invisible effect and demonstration of our workflow method for the film. The live action or stand in plane under construction was simply too crude and tended to undercut the pride Hughes took in his latest creation. As an unbudgeted item it fell to our in-house pre-viz artist to track, create the geometry of the airplane and composite the shot, at little or no extra cost to the production. Lightwave was the rendering software and the shots were produced in a minimal amount of time and certainly a minimal amount of money. The plane was replaced by a computer-generated version for every shot in the sequence. The dramatic effect this type of workflow creates is greater than the effect itself.
HERCULES (SPRUCE GOOSE) UNDER CONSTRUCTION:
The opening shot represents a partially built full size foreground replica of the plane married to a miniature of the Hercules and historic hangar. The task was blending the live set (a railroad manufacturing plant in Montreal) with the geometry of the actual hangar, as they were quite divergent. Great care was taken to morph the disparate structures together to create the illusion they are the actual historic building. The extras were shot and moved around to triple their numbers as well as adding additional workers, sparks and construction elements via green screen.
The second shot (walk 'n' talk) was a green screen composite of the actors walking in front of the miniature Hercules under construction.