Miniature & Motion Control Photography

Even with the evolution of modern computer graphics modeling and rendering techniques, there are still many situations that call for the use of Miniatures in the execution of Visual Effects. One of my favorite sayings is: "If you can get it in camera, then get it in camera." That's the first and best reason to use miniatures. Build it, light it and shoot it....and you're done! Unless you have to composite in a bunch of other stuff (such as Live Action, Matte Paintings, CGI, etc.)

There is a level of sophistication and detail that is still found only by using miniature construction, painting and photographic lighting techniques. The ability to accurately match lighting to an existing background is another good reason to use miniatures. And last, but not least, pyro-technical issues are a big reason to use miniatures. If you have to blow something up, it's still a lot easier and better to do it in miniature than in the computer.

The choice of scale, camera speed, lenses and lighting are all crucial to the success of a miniature effects shot. And working with the right motion control camera gear is critical to an efficient shoot. I have been shooting Motion Control and Miniatures for more than 25 years now and understand the 'dos and don'ts' when using these tools.

Image #1 From the Motion Picture "Poseidon." Though it sounds very much like an oxymoron, Greg McMurry managed to shoot these mixed-scale miniatures with Motion Control at high speed (up to 72 fps). Motion Control was used to control the path and timing of the camera move, as well as to trigger many of the shot's pyrotechnic events. This was a fun (yet gruelling) miniature shoot...and yes,mixed scales! The Background miniature was 1/12th scale, the foreground 1/6th scale. The miniatures were built and staged by Cinema Productions Services. Final composites by Hydraulx*

Images #2 : From the Motion Picture "Batman Forever" - It was on Batman Forever that I earned the nickname "The Element Man." Would you believe sixty four film elements to create this Live Action/Miniature Composite? I know the producer didn't......A 1/24th scale miniature was built and staged by Mike Joyce's crew. Motion Control was used in the photography of the miniature for ....all the right reasons. We had lots of lasers, we had UV, we had over 400 practical lights, we used projections and some passes had 32 second exposures in a room full of smoke! Aaaaaahhhh! Film scans and amazing composites by CIS Hollywood (since folded in to Method Studios).

Image #3 : From the Motion Picture "Face/Off" - Motion Control was used on several of these shots for safety reasons; we didn't want to photograph the actors/stuntment while the boat was flying around uncontrolled. Excellent "split screen" composites by VIFX (since folded into Rhythm & Hues )..

© 2014 Boyd Shermis Visual Effects, Inc .