Thursday, 19 April 2012

MATTES ON THE MOVE


MATTES ON THE MOVE: 
Pete's Editorial:


Before embarking on this latest blog please allow me to take some time to bring to the attention of the readers out there, who share like minded interests in movie magic from days gone by, a particularly wonderful photographic effects documentary unlike any other I’ve seen. 
The name Herman Schultheis in all probability means little to the majority of effects fans – certainly to me, aside from a brief page in a recent superb coffee table book, Setting The Scene on Disney  background animation art with some amazing pictures of his multiplane scenic effects for PINOCCHIO.  Well, as it turns out, Herman was Walt Disney’s hidden and uncredited fx wizard in residence throughout the forties and into the fifties with, among other achievements, were the phenomenal special photographic effects creations for FANTASIA .  In the realm of jaw dropping effects animation Disney led the pack, with the aforementioned animated feature still able to blow the minds of fans and newcomers alike.   
The newly released FANTASIA BluRay special edition (but not the DVD) has an absolutely superb documentary on Herman, assembled largely from the man’s very own meticulously detailed leather bound scrapbook in which he carefully recorded each and every pioneering trick shot devised for the film.  Truly eye popping inventions to bring that iconic and often dark imagery to the screen.  Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe the work Schultheis devised and managed to successfully pull off.  NZ Pete’s advice = “see it”.
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The other news is that, by way of the generous negotiating and a fair bit of ‘shoe leather’ of fx boys Craig Barron and Peter Anderson, I’ve managed to interview the one and only Matthew Yuricich.  Matt is in all likelihood the last surviving painter from the Golden Era, with a huge body of work – much of it uncredited - stretching from 1951 through to the mid nineties, having worked with notable characters such as Fred Sersen, Warren Newcombe, Clarence Slifer, Ray Kellogg, Emil Kosa and Rocco Gioffre.  I was holding off on the latest blog in hopes of presenting Matthew’s interview but it’s not ready yet so I’ll pencil that in for next blog.


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If all that weren't enough, I'm very happy to report that I've been having discussions with matte artist, stop motion animator and all round visual effects man Jim Danforth with the result being an upcoming and comprehensive interview with Jim on his extensive matte painting career.  Much has been written elsewhere on Jim's iconic stop motion work so I'm thrilled to in a position to open up Jim's memory vault on his many glass painting assignments (and more) ranging from the early sixties through to the late nineties.  Watch this space!

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Former Disney matte artist David Mattingly, who as we know painted wonderful shots for DICK TRACY and THE BLACK HOLE as well as innumerable sci-fi book covers was kind enough to send me a copy of his recent book The Digital Matte Painting Handbook to appraise.  Well, anyone who follows my blog will know that the digital realm is way outside of my sphere of fascination (not to mention my grasp of the technicalities therein) - however I must take a moment here to put in a very positive word for David's book. At a healthy 380 comprehensively illustrated pages, David takes the prospective digital artist right the way through the logistics and every conceivable stage of the process (which is all a bit beyond me I'll admit).  My infinitely more CG savvy sons praise both the book and Mattingly's bonus DVD tutorials which tie things together nicely.  For me, the digital realm will never replace the magic of the hand made, intuitive realm - but for those in tune with the technological world that visual effects now encompass, I'm convinced that this book would be a vital tool.
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MATTES ON THE MOVE:   
Pans, tilts, truck ins and pull outs
                                                           

Traditionally painted and photographed matte shots have, out of necessity, tended to be largely locked off and stationary affairs with only especially demanding film makers and bold photographic effects men tackling the artistic and technical challenges of pulling off a ‘mobile’ matte shot. 

Occasionally simple tilts and pans were quite easily accomplished  with the foreground glass art and a nodal head tripod mount.  20th Century Fox’s Fred Sersen utilized this method in the 20's, as did many other practitioners.  The in camera latent image composite provided immediate results and best of all by passed any secondary laboratory degredation which was in general, unavoidable in achieving pseudo camera moves on an optical printer.

Selznick International Matte Dept-1947
Early pioneers in the field were Jack Cosgrove and Clarence Slifer who in the late thirties designed and carried out astonishingly ambitious epic pull back multi element composites for Selznick’s GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) – and in glorious 3 strip Technicolor to boot!   That very same year RKO produced their own impressive pull out matte comp of Charles Laughton atop the storied Parisian cathedral for the closing shot of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME by integrating miniature rear projection into matte art under visual effects director Vernon Walker. 


By the mid forties Clarence Slifer and Jack Cosgrove had developed a rudimentary motorised pan and tilt head which permitted exacting and repeatable camera moves both on set and while shooting the subsequent matte painting later.  Shown above left is the Slifer camera effects team at Selznick International in 1947.  From left to right: machinist Oscar Jarosch, effects cameraman Clarence Slifer, matte painter Jack Shaw, camera assistant Harold Griggs, matte painters Spencer Bagtatopoulis and Hans Ledeboer and lastly camera operator Owen Marsh.  In front of Slifer is the somewhat crude, yet effective pulley driven set up which facilitated difficult camera moves on the optical printer for films such as DUEL IN THE SUN.  For the rest of his career Slifer would re-invent and continually develop his beloved optical printers in an effort to lift matte shots out of their static place.



While some studios, in particular Warner Brothers and Selznick, were gung ho about breaking the static matte out of it’s ‘locked off’ traditions, others like Universal and Paramount for example seemed resistant and as far as I could observe remained pretty conservative, all the more surprising given that John Fulton was well known for thinking ‘outside the square’ and exploring all manner of special effects techniques..

An artist at Warner Bros painting a multi-plane effects shot-film unknown.
The 1940’s saw the motion matte more and more utilized, with one studio in particular leading the field by a country mile.  The Warner Bros gold standard special effects department, known as Stage Five, was a giant in the industry where by all accounts almost anything could be achieved by her vast and highly creative team.  Of all the motion mattes I’ve researched for this article, none come close to those accomplished by Warners in terms of sheer guts and daring.  Classic pictures such as YANKEE DOODLE DANDY,  THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN, THE FOUNTAINHEAD and CASABLANCA are some of the Warner films which feature show stopping 'motion action' mattes as I term them – often a complex, carefully engineered montage of  painted matte art, live action, process projected elements, photo cut outs, miniatures and effects animation all integrated into an apparently seemless camera move.  No other studio to my knowledge came close as this one under special effects directors Byron Haskin, Lawrence Butler, William McGann and Edwin DuPar.

In the late forties a few studios, notably Paramount and MGM respectively, simultaneously developed prototype motion repeater camera mounts whereby very simple axis mechanized tilts and pans recorded on a punch tape system could be accurately repeated when photographing both the matte art, or in some cases, a miniature set and the live action on set.  Paramount first used their Stancliff Motion Repeater on the Cecil B.DeMille epic SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949), though the shot in question was a miniature collapsing temple with fleeing extras added via density traveling mattes.  Effects chief Gordon Jennings and his cinematographer Wallace Kelly assembled the sequence with a fairly minor tilt up to good effect.  Strangely, the studio never seemed to utilize the technology very often from my observations, with very few ‘once in a blue moon’ applications over the years. Above left is director Cecil B.DeMille with inventor Stancliffe and his motion repeater. The picture at right is a close up of the special mechanised nodal motion head. 

Over at MGM the matte department under Warren Newcombe and Mark Davis had a similar device in the works – the Dupy Duplicator - developed by MGM sound engineer Olin Dupy, which as far as I know did the same thing as the Paramount version.  Metro first used theirs on the Fred Astaire musical EASTER PARADE the same year as the Paramount picture.  At left is a schematic of Olin Dupy's device.

Over time innovators such as visual effects cinematographers Clarence Slifer, Linwood Dunn and British photographic effects man Wally Veevers would design and construct specialized camera devices of their own to achieve astonishing camera moves within painted matte art, with each of these three gentlemen producing first rate work on DUEL IN THE SUN, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG and THE COLDITZ STORY respectively.
Slifer deserves standout credit for many remarkable aerial image motion shots during his later tenure at MGM on such epics as MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY , THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD and THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN among others.
At left is one of Peter Ellenshaw's tilt downs from MARY POPPINS (1964). 


Wally Veevers was also responsible for designing and constructing the repeater equipment (built in his home garage I believe) for both 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY and THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN – though the former didn’t use any matte paintings at all, only miniatures and photographic cut outs, while the latter utilised Wally's system for multiplane photo cut outs on glass for squadrons of fighter planes - in both cases to outstanding effect.

Later developments by the next generation of visual effects men such as Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra and a few others would utilize advanced and more flexible variations on the basic motion repeater for the resurgence of the big effects extravaganzas of the late 70’s onward, though for the most part the technology would be designed for miniature work as opposed to matte art.  A few exceptions being the Disney studio, where Harrison Ellenshaw would use an automated system, Matte Scan, for some of the spectacular matte painted panoramas on THE BLACK HOLE (1979).  Disney would later take the device a step further and unleash Matte Scan Mark II, which was used extensively on films like DICK TRACY.

Industrial Light and Magic developed their own AutoMatte camera in the nineteen eighties for implementing camera moves within their painted matte composites.  I asked former ILM director of matte photography Craig Barron about this equipment (seen at left):  "On THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK Harrison Ellenshaw was the Matte Department head and showed us his reel from THE BLACK HOLE that had a lot of remarkable matte work with a moving camera – he had helped develop the Matte Scan camera at Disney. Richard Edlund seized upon this as a capability we needed in our ILM matte department as well – the ability to do big multiplane matte shots using motion control – the idea was to have it ready in time for the next Star Wars movie RETURN OF THE JEDI.

ILM's AutoMatte for RETURN OF THE JEDI in '83
"Our system was called the Automatte and would be even more capable than Matte Scan with a motion control camera that utilized a fifty-foot camera track. The camera could roll with motion control and allowed you to change movements for Vistavision or conventional 4 perf. We had a special anamorphic lens built by David Grafton that was a “one of a kind” lens - it added the anamorphic “squeeze” progressively through the optics – it was in effect “distortion free” when tracking over matte painting artwork".

 

"Every axis on the Automatte was facilitated with computerized motion control X, Y, Z and roll movement, on a 50 foot track. Also, there were two easels to hold the matte paintings (up to 4 by 8 ft) also fully motion controlled in X, Y and Z. Finally there was a Vistavision or conventional 4 perf rear projector – later we put the rear projector on the track to make it fully motion control in X, Y and Z as well".
"The Automatte was a thing of beauty in it’s own way – repeatable in every axis to a very high degree of precision – much higher than other motion camera systems of it’s day. I don’t know what happened to it as I left ILM before the digital age took over. I did come across the Grafton lens at the ILM/Kerner bankruptcy auction and tried to buy it but was outbid".




Well folks, what follows are a sizable number of matte moves - some subtle and others staggering.  I hope you enjoy them.



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To start off, here is an example of the 'all or nothing' capabilities of Warner Bros Stage 5 Special Effects Department where complex camera moves utilising painted mattes and models were nothing unusual.  The film is THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944), and this shot is an eye opener if ever there was one.  The camera does a non stop 180 degree pan around an Arabian city and finishes up on Fredric March speaking to the assembled masses.  The shot is one of many mattes in the film and the first of no less than three dazzling montage set pieces.  Laurence Butler was in charge of special effects which also included excellent miniature work.  Paul Detlefsen and Chesley Bonestell painted the mattes with this expansive matte one of Bonestell's.  Interestingly, the film was nominated for a special effects Oscar, with this sequence being submitted for consideration (it lost out to the incredible and thoroughly deserving 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO) and for once it was the Warner Bros matte painter (Detlefsen)and effects cameraman (John Crouse) who were up for the Oscar rather than the usual head of department - that must have been a first!  The shot was apparently a mixture of live action, photo cut outs (the same couple of exotic gents appear over and over if one takes notice), painted city and process projected Fredric March atop a miniature turret.  My guess is that this effects set up must have been constructed on a giant semi circular curve to facilitate the uninterrupted pan.


ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN - start of camera move

the pan continues...

...and continues

and continues...

...still going
hasn't stopped yet...

...nor yet

it's nearly there...

...the end is in sight

...moves from painting onto miniature

...and it concludes with rear projected Fredric March addressing the masses.  Wow!
The second of three astonishing matte camera moves in THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944).  This Paul Detlefsen matteshot starts on a tight close up of a rear projected Fredric March and gracefully pulls out, and out - even passing between a pair of secondary characters 'watching' the entirely manufactured effects event. 
MARK TWAIN frame

MARK TWAIN - concluding frame of the massive pullback shot.


Carol Reed's 1965 epic THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY featured this head scratcher of a camera move where the fluid camera follows the actor across the set all the while keeping Renaissance Rome in the background.  In all likelihood I tend to suspect no optical work at all, rather a large painted backing set up out doors, or a forced perspective miniature/painting combination just at the end of the foreground set.  Very effective though.  Effects by L.B Abbott and Emil Kosa jr.

Louis Litchtenfield painted this top up matte for an existing MGM backlot set for the Gene Kelly musical AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) with matte cameraman Mark Davis utilising the Dupy Duplicator to accurately match the on set camera tilt with an identical mechanised move against the painting.

A reverse view of the Newcombe matte camera set up for the below match move composite shot.


Another motion matte shot from the same film where our lovers embrace on the steps as the camera tilts up to reveal Lou Litchtenfield's romantic night view of Paris, made under Warren Newcombe's supervision. I recall reading that the artwork was painted on a curved sheet of masonite (or hardboard as we call it) to facilitate focus during the nodal head move.

A fairly straightforward tilt up from THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989) where a limited Cinecitta exterior set has been augmented by a Doug Ferris painting of ruined buildings and sky.  Doug's long time pal John Grant was effects cameraman.

Alan Maley's vast, sprawling painting for the excellent film BECKET (1964) seen here prior to being photographed optically for an ambitious diagonal downward move from castle at upper left across to lower right action.

The start frame from the BECKET move as it appears on screen.

...and the end frame from the camera move.




A rare moving effects shot from Universal's film noir BLACK ANGEL (1946) supervised by David Stanley Horsley.  The shot appears to be a large miniature facade and painted backing with a lap dissolve to live action just as the camera moves through the venetian blinds.  

ILM provided this extensive pull back from the tiny brownstone building to a vast cityscape for the film BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED (1987).  The matte artist was Christopher Evans with Craig Barron as VFX cinematographer.  The shot was carried out with VistaVision camera positioned sideways to extend the vertical axis.

ILM's Christopher Evans at work on the painting for the above effects shot.
Another low key Industrial Light and Magic tilt matte composite from BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED.

Matte painter Bill Mather and visual effects supervisor Craig Barron  of Matte World set up a stunning tilt matte for the 1992 feature BATMAN RETURNS.  Note the blank area which will recieve the process live action plate.

The finished Matte World composite with rear projected live action element in the centre of the frame.

Harrison Ellenshaw's wonderful matte painting of the observatory from THE BLACK HOLE (1979) prior to the five VistaVision live action plates being composited.

The finished BLACK HOLE pull back and tilt up effects shot photographed with Disney's Matte Scan camera by Ed Sekek - arguably the best effect in the film.  The deliberate glare of the spot lights in Ellenshaw's painting were separate airbrushed artwork applied to a second clear glass.  The lens flare was apparently a natural artifact which occurred during matte photography and worked magnificently.

David Mattingly's 'umbrella' matte art from THE BLACK HOLE

The finished tilt down with Mattingly's painting combined with a partial miniature background and a Peter Ellenshaw perspective painting.  Disney's Matte Scan was a big, bulky affair  - equipped with the huge CinemaScope lens originally built by Bausch and Lombe for the 1954 feature 20'000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.
Still with Disney, we have here a delightful and by all appearances quite complex matte camera move for the Portobello Road sequence of BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS.  I spoke with then trainee matte painter Harrison Ellenshaw for his recollections:  "This was a rather large painting approximately 6-7 ft long by approx 3 ft high.  The live action at the end already had the effects animation added to it and so the painting and the live action was shot with a process projector (sync’d up with the camera) at real time (i.e. 24 frames per second) as one pass. (As you know there was no motion control back then.)  The move itself was achieved by mounting the camera on a dolly track for the tracking across the paintings with tilt on the camera head.  It also looks like there is a slight zoom in at the end.
There are no multi-plane elements basically because you have to hold focus through the entire shot.
E.g. if there had been a foreground element of the sign a rack focus to the background would have been required (which wouldn’t have looked “real”). Much more light would have been needed to hold focus on the painting.
However with more light on the painting the rear projection would have been “washed out” i.e. less contrast, making the shot less effective.  It is interesting that Alan Maley (who painted this) chose to have a yellow sky and to have the vanishing point of the roofs and buildings different from the vanishing point of the plate.
My only contribution to this shot was that I painted some of the bricks".

The 1958 Richard Brooks film THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV opened with this stunning 360 degree pan around a Russian village which I'm sure is sleight of hand.  Lee LeBlanc and Clarence Slifer were in charge here, with possibly Matthew Yuricich on painting chores.  While following various characters, the camera, operating from a fixed point, reveals a Russian town and landscape during this pan before finally ending on a young, and miscast William Shatner.  I suspect that maybe a carefully positioned foreground glass painting may have been used here

The famous leap of faith from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) was in fact a cleverly orchestrated live action stunt jump at the Fox Ranch from a high tower with a glass painted canyon positioned several feet in front of the 35mm camera by effects man L.B Abbott.

An unidentified artist applies finishing touches to the foreground painting featured in the above shot.  The fellow in the photo may be Emil Kosa jr, though I doubt it as Kosa passed away the previous year to the best of my knowledge?

A closer view of the on location glass painting.  Natural advantages here being an instant in camera composite on original negative with absolutely no loss of resolution which normally occurs with re-photographed composites.

British matte artist Leigh Took works on a multi plane glass shot for the film CHICAGO JOE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1990).  Leigh trained under Pinewood veteran matte painter Cliff Culley.

The finished multi plane glass paintings being photographed with a motion control rig at The Magic Camera Company.

Michael Curtiz' all time enduring classic CASABLANCA (1942) starts the ball rolling with this matte of the North African city.  The camera then tracks downward into the busy market place in a seamless and clean composite.

Not really a tilt, as the camera tracks vertically down the shot.  Special effects supervisors were Lawrence W.Butler and Willard van Enger.  Matte artists probably Paul Detlefsen, Chesley Bonestell and maybe Mario Larrinaga.  Effects cameramen John Crouse, Eddie Linden and Edwin DuPar.

Albert Whitlock and Bill Taylor created this dramatic tilt up matte comp for CAT PEOPLE (1982).  The actors were shot in VistaVision with a vertical camera set up on a limited soundstage set at Universal against a large bluescreen with Whitlock painting in the tree, distant town sky and some of the rocks.  The sandstorm was achieved with the same rotating cotton wool disc gag Albert had previously created for BOUND FOR GLORY in 1976.

Whitlock's cotton disc sandstorm shown again here in what I suspect is a publicity photo.

Richard Attenborough's rather good 1991 bio pic CHAPLIN had a number of great mattes by Syd Dutton and Al Whitlock, with this amazing pull back of Kevin Kline atop the famed Hollywoodland sign which, aside from the two actors is entirely fabricated at Illusion Arts by Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton.
The 1992 Roland Joffe film CITY OF JOY featured this wonderful, extensive matte pull out at it's conclusion.  Matte artist Doug Ferris painted over a large 8'x10' photographic blowup at Shepperton Studios (in the room that used to be the Wally Veevers/Percy Day matte department).  The motion control pullback was shot and assembled by Angus Bickerton.

Michelle Moen is seen here applying the finishing touches to her huge rockface painting for a front projection pullback composite for the Sylvester Stallone actioner CLIFFHANGER (1993).  Note the foreground canyon wall miniatures which lend a third dimension to the camera move.  At right is the process projector set up.

A close view of the middle section of Michelle's painting, with process screen in place.  I meant to include this (and several others) in my most recent 'Mattes Up Close' but forgot!

The John Wayne picture THE COMANCHEROS (1961) had this Mississippi River steamer.  Note the steam and smoke effects doubled into a major painting.

The other half..... almost all painted except the people, a small area of real water behind the pedestrians and part of the boat.  L.B Abbott was effects chief, and Emil Kosa jnr was principal matte painter.
The mind blowing 'action matte and miniature' opening tour de force from John Landis' hugely enjoyable COMING TO AMERICA (1988) - the last 'good' flick with Eddie Murphy!  Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton were key players in putting together this terrific set piece.  According to Bill Taylor:  "...the jungle was a beautiful Apogee model, which was built in a very small scale on 2 tables that were 12 feet square.  The tables were shot twice, turned 90 degrees for the second pass which was offset 12 feet back.  Thus we had 48 feet total travel over the tables.  Doug Smith programmed and shot the model at on the big stage at Apogee.  I shot the paintings at Illusion Arts using the same program.  The paintings were each 4 ft by 8 ft on a masonite surface, and bent into a curve when shot to fill the 20mm lens - a technique we laughingly called 'The Bendoflex'.  There is a dissolve to a multi-plane shot of the palace with rear projection live action inserted, all shot 8 perf and composited 4 perf by David Williams".

I read somewhere that the 'jungle' was fabricated largely out of broccoli - whether that's true or not, I don't know.

Another of several motion effects shots in COMING TO AMERICA with this being a VistaVision tilt down of a Syd Dutton painting.

Orson Welles' landmark CITIZEN KANE (1941) was chock filled with photographic effects.  This shot by effects cameraman Russell Cully and optical man Linwood Dunn is one of the invisible trick shots which are what 'special effects' are all about.  The camera starts on the head of the statue and slowly moves downward and pulls back slightly to reveal a character entering shot.  The statue and ceiling was a scale miniature set which was blended halfway through the tilt down shot with a soft split screen to an identical camera move from the base of the pedestal with the actors.

Now, this is a very ambitious motion matte shot, and it dates back over sixty years.  It's from the 1949 Bing Crosby movie A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT.  Paramount studios special effects department under head Gordon Jennings had just commissioned their prototype motion repeater device, designed by G.L Stancliff.  This shot is interesting as it starts on a live action location with a beach and ocean - the camera sweeps across the seafront and moves up a cliff face where a Jan Domela matte painting of a castle is blended - itself with it's own live action insert of an element of actors in a courtyard.  The actual marry up is pretty unsteady, but you have to admire the idea.  Paramount's long time matte cinematographer Irmin Roberts worked closely with Jennings and Domela to pull off this trick shot.

One of my favourite Les Bowie mattes is this atmospheric and very wide panorama Les did for CAPTAIN CLEGG (1962).  The painting measured some 12 feet across and had tiny holes drilled in the hardboard surface for backlit gags as well as foreground miniature foliage set up by Ian Scoones.  Matte cameraman was Kit West.
Fox's huge Oscar winning epic CLEOPATRA (1963) won an Oscar for Emil Kosa's matte shots - although to the best of my knowledge Kosa didn't actually paint them.  As far as I know this mammoth painting of the ancient port of Alexandria was the work of Fox veteran Ralph Hammeras.  The painting succeeds on so many levels - namely that it's a masterfully drafted out panorama, painted on to tow huge plates of glass directly on set and photographed in camera on a nodal head mount as a foreground glass shot.  The frame supporting the two panes of glass are hidden behind the center statue, thus permitting a perfectly naturalistic pan across the two glasses.

An excellent schematic of the dual glass foreground shot as used on CLEOPATRA and many other films.  Spanish visual effects pioneers Enrique Salva and Emilio Ruiz del Rio used this method on hundreds of matte shots from the 1940's onward with pristine first generation results.

Another of just a handful of mattes in CLEOPATRA - again executed as an on set foreground glass painting with the statue concealing the join between the two plates of glass.  There are various stories as to who painted this - former Pop Day matte artist Joseph Natanson being one, and even Emilio Ruiz and a landscape artist named Mary Bone being documented in some corners as having painted this glass shot.  We may never know.

Close view of the left side painted glass.



The 1957 Guy Hamilton WWII drama THE COLDITZ STORY began it's narrative with this impressive tilt down from a painted German town into split screened Shepperton set.  My cut and paste here is clumsy at best and was tricky to piece together the subtle perspective shift during the move for this tribute... but I'm sure you get the point.  Special effects chief was an uncredited Wally Veevers with George Samuels or Bob Cuff most likely the painters here.





Harrison Ellenshaw at work on one of two vast matte paintings for the effects heavy Disney film DICK TRACY (1990)

DICK TRACY - commencement of matte camera move made on Disney's Matte Scan Mark II matte camera.

DICK TRACY

DICK TRACY... same camera move gliding across the whimsical Tracy Town.
DICK TRACY ... closing in on the final view in the vast camera move.

DICK TRACY.... final push in to rear projected section of live action street outside club.

DICK TRACY..... the shot concludes here.  An enormously impressive visual effect which, like all of the dozens of matte shots in the film really should have been a visual effects nominee that year....... but, NO!   :(
In addition to that above amazing DICK TRACY camera move is this dawn matte action shot which includes miniatures, epic scale matte art and atmospheric effects.  Many artists worked on the show, with Harrison Ellenshaw and Michael Lloyd running the effects department, and painters David Mattingly, Paul Lasaine, Michelle Moen, Peter Ellenshaw, Tom Gilleon, Leon Harris and Lucy Takashian all rolling up their sleeves and tackling the enormous roster of mattes.

The 1951 Biblical epic DAVID AND BATHSHEBA was a pretty dismal affair all round, but it did have this wonderful pan effect near the start.  In what appears to be in all probability a foreground painting or perhaps a hanging miniature, the camera sweeps across the Roman city walls to follow Gregory Peck.  I'm pretty sure that strategically placed tree in the mid shot is a concealment for whichever of those trick shots were employed.  Effects head was Fred Sersen.

Selznick's DUEL IN THE SUN (1947) possessed many striking painted mattes by Jack Cosgrove, with a pair of beautiful motion matte shots bookending the, at times hysterical western soap opera.  The above shot is the opening tilt down photographed by Cosgrove's long time associate Clarence Slifer, and is a stunning vision in itself.

Purportedly the actual Cosgrove painting utilised for the shot, though it doesn't seem to be identical.  The surprising looseness of the brushwork is similar to the other still surviving paintings from the film (which I must post sometime), some of which are very much 'rough and ready' indeed.

A frame from Clarence Slifer's dramatic closing matte camera move from DUEL IN THE SUN.  The shot in motion has a profound multiplane look to it - with what appears to be around 3 levels of artwork plus the live action element (see below) of Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones.

An earlier frame from this pull out.

The impressive finale visual effects sequence of DUEL IN THE SUN.

For the Fred Astaire musical EASTER PARADE (1948) MGM's Newcombe Matte Department were faced with their first automated camera move on a matte shot.  Above is the painting of the streets of New York needed to top up a backlot street set.
The Newcombe painting as composited and shown in a subtle tilt up for the closing shot of the film.
The Newcombe set up in 1948  for this matte composite.  Pictured are some of the key players posing with the Dupy Duplicator - a motion repeater device.  From left:  Olin Dupy, the inventor of the process; William Spencer, the head of studio; matte cinematographer Mark Davis; Warren Newcombe and finally at right effects camera operator Bob Roberts.
For THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) Craig Barron was assigned this shot with Neil Krepela and he remembered this early effects shot as thus:
"This was a Ralph McQuarrie matte painting from (before we had the Automatte at ILM) and it was shot on the matte department Front Projector system - the camera could pan and tilt via motion control but had limited movement. Our matte shots would become much more ambitious by Jedi with multiple live action plates and other elements add to our shots".


A dire sci fi film with few merits, ENEMY MINE (1985) was an excellent matte show with this very Bonestell-esque galactic tilt down shot executed at Industrial Light and Magic.  I asked Craig Barron about this shot:  "The technique used was to put a Vistavision camera on it's side to make a double tall frame - then we masked out the top area for the matte painting - usually shooting through a black matte on glass or black card in the matte box. I shot the live action plates as a 2nd unit crew with a camera asst. and a matte painter to set the black matte from our matte department".
"Then we added in the matte painting back at ILM with original negative to make a 'Vistavision pre-comp.' After developing the composite it was sent to Optical where John Ellis added the tilt on his "Ellis Printer." 
"The idea was that if the shot's live action needed to be 'full frame' - then the quality using this technique would be better then rear projection. I can't say I originated the idea but I developed it at ILM with John Ellis in the optical department. But it was really Al Whitlock that was doing it first with Bill Taylor and they were kind enough to share their knowledge about how to do it".
"In the Enemy Mine shot - the live action plate is shot full frame and reduced so that the rear projected image is only as wide as the "mining machines" - the more you could reduce the RP plate in the design the better it's image quality. RKO did this a lot - sometimes with more then one projector working behind the matte painting for multiple plates".


I was saving these for my upcoming ILM blog but the nature of the shot suggests this page is the place for them.  Here's one of the sensational painted mattes created for the George Lucas 80'S telemovie EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR.  The VistaVision process as outlined in the above frame was also utilised here.

Another extreme tilt move matte shot from EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR.

Peter Ellenshaw's track out from the actors to a wide view for the end of THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL (1966) with Disney's usual method of rear projected actors inserted onto the parapet and a fairly large painting.

One of the all time finest matte camera moves is this remarkable opening multiplane matte sequence from Roman Polanski's 1967 picture THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (aka DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES).  Extraordinary not just for the fine painting skills of Peter Melrose but as much for the uncommonly crisp and pristine image quality of the final optical composite - courtesy of Doug Ferris and cameraman Peter Harman.  Really top shelf work here.  *Click here to see my earlier  Shepperton Studios tribute for all the technical details of this shot according to painter Peter Melrose.

The 'Fearless' sequence of events:  Starts off on an extreme close up of the craters of the moon, then pulls out, and out, and out to pass over distant mountain ranges, then foreground hills and coming to rest on a snow filled Transylvanian landscape.  At this point our main protagonists come into view via horse drawn sleigh..... and all in one seamless shot.  Simply breathtaking, with a collective pat on the backs due for all involved.  Bravo!
Probably one of the most identifiable effects shots, let alone tilt down camera moves of the fifties.  MGM's FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) had this wonderful Howard Fisher painting merged with backlit light gags, interactive pools of light doubled in and an exciting reveal by way of the tilt down.  Very much reminiscent of Chuck Jones 'Duck Dodgers' to me. Howard Fisher was a mainstay in the large Warren Newcombe matte department and among the many films Fisher painted on was GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, as featured in my previous blog.
The excellent film THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949) was a tour de force for the illustrious Stage 5 Visual Effects boys over at Warner Brothers, with dozens of remarkable mattes, miniatures, process shots and often a complex blend of all of those in single shots!  Among the sensational matte work is this typically bold Warner Bros track in shot which starts with a dizzying upward angle of Gary Cooper's skyscraper and in a smooth motion the camera POV moves all the way up to Coop, finally coming to a halt in a three quarter shot of the actor.  The building here is possibly a large miniature.

A closer view of the upward camera move.  The building is probably a model and Cooper is possibly a process projection, though I'm not sure.  This type of trick shot was second nature for the effects guys at Warner Bros.  Special effects supervisors William McGann and John Holden, with Edwin DuPar as visual effects cameraman.  A number of matte artists were involved with the many painted shots: Chesley Bonestell, Paul Detlefsen, Jack Shaw and Mario Larrinaga

The shot in sequence.  I truly admire the way the WB Stage 5 team seamlessly blend the live action plate or projection with the miniatures and matte art in so many of this calibre of effects sequence - of which their are more to follow in this article.  The faint 'bubble' visible surrounding Cooper may be where the process screen has been softly blended into a painted sky?
The outlandishly delicious Robert Rodriguez vampire flick FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1995) had this revealing pullback as an especially potent 'sting in the tail'.  Illusion Arts were commissioned to produce the shot under the supervision of Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton. 

Robert Stromberg's large glass painting with the upper darkened area a rear process screen for live action of the surviving principals driving away.  In the foreground are some of Lynn Ledgerwood's variably scaled miniature car wrecks which provide a realistic depth and sense of distance to the pullback.

Illusion Arts miniaturist Lynn Ledgerwood preparing the miniatures for a separate pass.  The final shot was photographed by matte cameraman Mark Sawicki.
A massive Clarence Slifer pull back reveal from the film THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965).  The shot was fraught with technical problems I'm reliably told, with the joins between the aerial image live action mid section and the painted city showing during initial attempts.  To help disguise the joins it was decided to add a flock of white birds flying through the shot by means of rotoscoping on sheets of glass set at a slightly out of focus foreground plane to lend a subtle softness to the birds and avoid matte lines.  Matthew Yuricich's brother Richard worked on the bird roto.

Jan Domela's matte painting in progress for the above scene.  Visual effects director was J.MacMillan Johnson.
The bizarre, head scratching Audrey Hepburn vehicle, GREEN MANSIONS (1959) was a film that only Hepburn's husband and the film's director, Mel Ferrer could appreciate.  Strange doesn't even begin to describe it!  Anyway, some nice matte work by Lee LeBlanc including this terrific tilt up matte of the South American jungle - a painted jungle I love the look of by the way. Being an MGM film Clarence Slifer and Dick Worsfold would have photographed this and other mattes.
A monumental motion matte painted shot - from Selznick's GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).  Jack Cosgrove would oversee (and paint many of) the 50 odd mattes required for the production, with his right hand man Clarence Slifer engineering complicated vistas such as this.  A multi part composite comprising of the two actors, a painted Tara, real sky photographed by chance after a dramatic Southern Californian storm and a miniature tree in the foreground.  A masterpiece of optical cinematography and a fitting example of one of the industry's foremost effects cameramen.


Albert Whitlock's tilt down from a smouldering volcano to a river in the Congo for Hugh Hudson's GREYSTOKE - THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (1984).  A nice painting that was marred by a disappointingly obvious matte line running across the frame, which sadly showed up all too prominently on the giant theatre screen in Scope.
Although this isn't the actual painting for the above shot it is one of a handful of Whitlock paintings which never made the final cut of GREYSTOKE.
For the Danny Kaye film HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON (1952) Clarence Slifer engineered this opening camera move from the clouds into the fairy tale township.  As it was a Samuel Goldwyn production Slifer would probably have hired a freelance matte artist.  For a time Goldwyn would lease the special effects facilities of Selznick International, of which Slifer was a major participant. Slifer may have used guys like Jack Shaw or Al Simpson - both of whom had a long track record with Clarence.
A wide pan matte across a busy South Seas harbour from the salty Burt Lancaster adventure HIS MAJESTY O'KEEFE (1953).  The matte was probably the work of Louis Litchtenfield or Jack Shaw at Warner Brothers at that time.

An unusual tilt upward from the Joe Dante horror flick THE HOWLING (1980).  The shot begins on the couple making love by the fire - itself a curious effect that appears to be entirely rotoscoped none too successfully (with very unsteady results) - with the camera moving up above the tree tops to a multi plane moon and clouds.  Optical effects by the usually reliable Peter Kuran, though I've no clue as to the matte artist.
An interesting misfire was the odd little comedy from Allan Arkush called HEARTBEEPS (1981), though the many fine Albert Whitlock shots make the film worthwhile.  This one above is a corker.  Bill Taylor told me that it was shot with what he called 'The Super Lens' - a lens which gave a 3 to 1 aspect ratio and "gave us more real estate for optical pans".  The machine at right is a miniature and the fellow in the foreground is Al's son Mark Whitlock, shot against blue screen.  Whitlock's uncanny sense of backlight and the time of day were his secret I believe.

Albert Whitlock's painting for HEARTBEEPS compared with the original concept artwork.
The Clive Barker film HELLBOUND-HELLRAISER II (1988) had an exceptional pull out trick shot by British matte artist Cliff Culley.  I'm not sure just how this mighty shot was accomplished.  There are figures running along the top of the right wall and there is a nice perspective shift as the shot progresses... not sure if it's miniature, multi plane paintings or what ever else??  Looks great though.  Effects camerawork by Cliff's son Neil Culley.

HELLBOUND

HELLBOUND

HELLBOUND

HELLBOUND - conclusion of the pull out and tilt.
A Chesley Bonestell painting of Notre Dame forms the basis of this grand pullback from the Charles Laughton HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939).  The RKO visual effects department was headed by Vernon L.Walker with effects photography by Russell Cully and Harold Stine.  Linwood Dunn looked after optical composites.  The tiny figure of Laughton is probably a rear projected element, or postage stamp projection as it was termed at the time after being pioneered by RKO during the making of KING KONG in 1933. Effects man Craig Barron told me that RKO were gung ho about using rear projection within their paintings, with often multiple projections in a given shot such as ANDROCLES AND THE LION.
The original (and superior) Enzo Castellari version of INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978) had many ingenious perspective trick shots courtesy of one of my all time favourite effects wizards, the incomparable Spanish visual effects maestro Emilio Ruiz del Rio.  Emilio's specialty was the use of in camera foreground glass paintings or hanging miniatures to expand a scene with pristine first generation results.  His body of work is truly amazing and I can't wait for the biography on his life and career to come out. 
Here is Emilio with the foreground miniature set which once photographed carefully will allow for pans such as the shot reproduced above.  A mainstay in the Spanish and Italian film industries, Ruiz also made inroads into a number of American films in the 80's and 90's. 
Ken Marschall did a great deal of matte painting throughout the 1980's and 90's, mostly unrecognised, such as this elaborate simulated crane up shot for the 1988 Frank La Loggia horror film LADY IN WHITE.  This shot is a combination painted matte of the upper part of the frame, live action mid frame and a miniature clock tower in the foreground.  Visual effects overseen by Ernie Farino and Gene Warren jr, with mattes photographed by Bruce Block with a perfect perspective shift as the camera cranes upward.



The 1981 television miniseries MASADA was a quite extensive matte art assignment for Universal's Albert Whitlock,  and Syd Dutton.  The shot above was an almost entirely painted view of the ancient city with fire and smoke effects doubled in.  To top it all off, effects cameramen Bill Taylor and Dennis Glouner introduced this dramatic camera move into the shot, presumably as an optical from a VistaVision negative.
An all time favourite of mine, MARY POPPINS (1964) proved a field day for matte supervisor Peter Ellenshaw and his small team of artists.  The film has a number of excellent motion camera matte shots, some of which slip by unnoticed.  This shot is one of the first up and is a beauty.  The camera starts on Mary, up in the clouds, and sweeps down over Edwardian London and moves into a street scene with Bert and the kids.  An utter delight.

Peter Ellenshaw's original matte painting for the above shot, complete with process screen areas for the two live action VistaVision plates.  A deliriously wonderful painting by a true master of the art form.

Another winning effects camera move from MARY POPPINS - the mesmerising 'Feed the Birds' set piece.  I've often said that 'music maketh the matte' and there is no better example than the Sherman Brothers hypnotic tune underscoring the visuals here.  The shot begins above St Pauls and slowly works it's way down and around the Cathedral before settling on the lone 'Bird Lady' on the steps outside. 

More frames from the 'Feed the Birds' sequence of MARY POPPINS with cel animated birds superimposed over Ellenshaw's dreamlike painting.  Assisting Peter was veteran Disney artist Jim Fetherolf. The song BTW was Walt's all time favourite and possesses an almost eerie quality about it which lingers long in the mind.
One of Peter Ellenshaw's conceptual paintings.
A relatively rare Columbia matte move - this one from the 1951 version of LORNA DOONE.
An interesting tilt down shot from the 1957 Billy Wilder film LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON.  I don't know whether this is a painted matte, a foreground glass shot or a hanging miniature.  Effects man unknown.
A Percy Day pull out painted shot from A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946)

Two frames from a bold push in camera move from RKO's MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949).  Most of the upper frame consists of painted glass nightclub with just a small amount of live action set.  Matte artists were Jack Shaw, Fitch Fulton and Louis Litchtenfield. 

A curious little science fiction yarn, with a patchwork roster of top effects talent including Al Whitlock, Harrison Ellenshaw and Syd Dutton to name a few.  This super reactor matte painting shows up several times with different lighting effects.  The whole shot looks pretty good in motion and is credited to Whitlock and Dutton.
Matthew Yuricich's grand opening shot from the under rated 1962 version of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY.  The ships are all painted on glass, the sail reflections are crude mock ups positioned just beyond the matte above the MGM tank, the row boat is an Arnold Gillespie mechanical model and the birds have been optically added.

The subsequent shot is a Clarence Slifer jigsaw puzzle combining two Yuricich paintings - one of the ships and a second of the township - in addition to the aforementioned miniature rowboat.  The shot pans across the harbour and onto the town, then with great fluidity tilts downward and gently pushes in on the actors on the dock all in one smooth optical assembly.  A beautiful piece of work from Slifer and Yuricich, and a damned good film to boot, with outstanding miniature work, massive triple head process shots and nice split screens.
Syd Dutton is shown here with one of his paintings for NEVER ENDING STORY 2 (1990).  As the proposed shot is an extensive tilt down, Dutton prepared his matte art in the vertical format for VistaVision 8 perf photography.  Note the blank area for insertion of the live action plate.
Another Illusion Arts pullback, this time from the musical NEWSIES (1992) for which Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor were given this quite extreme task to bring successfully to the screen.
A completely invisible trick shot, orchestrated by MGM's effects supervisor J,MacMillan Johnson for the excellent Lee Marvin film POINT BLANK (1967).  The frequently shown high rise apartment penthouse was in fact a matte painting added flawlessly to an existing Los Angeles office building.  For this particular shot optical cameraman Clarence Slifer introduced an amazingly 'free' and loose simulated hand held telescopic view with great finesse.  Matte artist probably Matthew Yuricich.  Very neat work.

The dire 1979 version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA was a total wash out, with only Albert Whitlock's great mattes and Bill Taylor's super 'twin' opticals to make it worthwhile.  This is one of three tilt matte painted composites in the film.

Matte artist, stop motion animator, cameraman and all round visual effects man Jim Danforth is shown here at work on his massive 12 foot painting for the abysmal film PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT (1971).  Beautiful perspective draftsmanship lends a photo real appearance for the substantial pullback from the process projected element of Karen Black.

Okay, so it's not matte art, but it's still a pretty amazing 'moving' effects sequence from Warners' PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES (1944).  I did a blog a long time ago on this effects filled movie, but this sequence deserves a redux. Jack Cosgrove and Roy Davidson ran the visual effects on this Michael Curtiz picture with the scene above a good representative sequence of the amazing miniature work throughout the show.  Vast swathes of French pastoral landscape were recreated in miniature, complete with mechanised model farm machinery and even fake miniature cows moving their heads etc.  All this plus a slot driven miniature vehicle and all of it photographed from a mobile camera!  Amazingly brave material, presumably shot this way due to wartime travel restrictions I'd guess.  Later scenes have entirely miniaturised aerodromes and taxiing planes and the whole shebang.  One of a kind.

Disney's POLLYANNA (1960) had several nice matte shots with a few slipping by unnoticed such as this beautiful tilt up view of the homestead.  Peter Ellenshaw was in charge of the mattes though from what I can ascertain he only painted those later shots for the pivotal tree sequence.  Peter's assistant Albert Whitlock definitely painted the first long shot of the house so it's possible that Peter's other matte artists Jim Fetherolf or Constantine Ganakes painted this view.
Matthew Yuricich contributed this eerie pull back shot for the film POLTERGEIST II-THE OTHER SIDE (1986).

Frames from the extreme pull back with Yuricich's matte art photographed by Neil Krepela under Richard Edlund's supervision at the then high profile Boss Films.
An unusually subtle photographic effect from the W.C Fields film POPPY (1936).  For this seemingly straightforward shot the camera moves along a stream and blossoming trees and settles upon a romantic tryst.  Paramount's head of special effects Gordon Jennings had studio miniaturist Art Smith set up a miniature pastoral set complete with running water and then made a tracking shot along the set and at a specific point Paul Lerpae introduced a soft matted moving split screen which bridged the miniature with a studio set. 
Albert Whitlock created uncredited matte shots for the James Coburn satire THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST (1967) including this extremely wide multi element composite which began with the city lights, moved across to the helicopter and then follows the characters as they head up toward the hilltop building at right. 
The opening sequence from Laurence Olivier's THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957) provided a spectacular 360 degree panoramic camera move around Victorian London.  Most likely a massive (and I do mean massive) circular painting with some miniature components built in.  Bill Warrington and Charles Staffel were credited, with Bill then head of Rank-Pinewood's special effects department.  In addition to this spectacular vista the film had a number of matte paintings (all with quite strange hues for some reason).  Cliff Culley would have been primarily responsible for the work, probably with Peter Melrose and others.  Albert Whitlock had left the studio by this time and was in the USA.

More of that panoramic journey.

And it's still going....

The final part of the gigantic move where the camera moves in on a miniature, then moves on down the facade and into the live action.  Interestingly, the film features one of the most profoundly insane process scenes ever made.  An interior of the palace has a large window which Olivier stands looking out of.  The rear projection plate of carriages passing by is, astonishingly, NOT even locked down, with the process camera actually panning with the parade, giving the bizarre effect that Buckingham palace is somehow 'moving'!!!   Jesus, I've seen some crazy visual effects in my time but this one takes the prize..... and it was a Charlie Staffel process shot which is even more shocking!  I don't know how the hell it ever made the final cut.
A frame from one of Warner Bros moving matte/miniature combo shots - this one from the Errol Flynn 1937 film THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER.  Photographic effects by Byron Haskin with matte art probably by Paul Detlefsen.

Another frame from the PRINCE AND THE PAUPER move with live action at lower left.
As I've written previously, nobody did it better when it came down to eye popping camera moves, and this wonderful film has several great trick shots, the best of which is the below masterpiece of VFX cinematography...

Holy Cow!!! The finale from RHAPSODY IN BLUE (1945) as the camera starts off extremely tight on the hands of Robert Alda (Alan's dad) and glides up, and up, and up into the heavens - complete with clouds and mist, which probably conceal the 'joins' between what I'd imagine to be several different matte paintings.  The visual effects directors were seasoned pro's - Willard van Enger had a long association with Warner Bros Stage 5 and was one of as many as five directors of special effects employed at any one time in that very large department.  Willard died two years after completing this project.  Co-FX director Roy Davidson was a former Columbia effects boss, with shows such as LOST HORIZON under his belt.  Davidson would go on to oversee the visual effects on many big Warner Bros films though his absolutely best work was for the phenomenal HELL'S ANGELS back in 1930.
Another of RHAPSODY IN BLUE's mighty matte painted camera moves.
Although camera moves were rare in Disney's earliest live action films, there was this beautifully atmospheric tilt down painted by Peter Ellenshaw for ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952).  I believe that Albert Whitlock assisted Peter with the mattes and titles on this film, though as Peter's son Harrison told me recently, rarely would any of the fellow painters mattes leave the easel in the Disney Fx dept without Ellenshaw having made some contribution to the artwork.
MGM's 1952 version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA featured this very wide camera move on a Newcombe matte painting.  I'm not sure if this was an actual foreground glass shot or an optical move done later by Irving Ries.  ??


RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) had scores of wonderful matte effects with this evocative scene a Mike Pangrazio painting.  Craig Barron did the camerawork of the Ewok village as an AutoMatte shot two live action plates (same plate flopped and reduced smaller with different action) many passes to add fire elements, finished with an upward camera move.
 

Another AutoMatte ILM camera move - this from STAR TREK IV (1988).  ILM's Craig Barron explained the make up of this move to me:  "Sean Joyce made this particular matte painting, with the move accomplished as an Automatte shot for which I did the camera work.  The beginning has a plate to show Saavik that remains on Vulcan. The live action is at the head of shot. Fire element in background - Bird of Prey craft shot blue screen and lens flare pass for the sun".

Some of Albert Whitlock's best work can be seen in Stanley Kramer's SHIP OF FOOLS (1965).  A wholly maritime narrative with all of the picture taking place at sea.  All of the exterior vistas of ship, sky, ports and sometimes ocean were Whitlock's oil paint.  This opening scene is a moving matte which pans from the (painted) city at left and moves across the harbour to the (painted) ship and moody, forboding (painted) skies.  Possibly even the sea is a Whitlock effect too, I'm unsure here, but later shots are 100% Whitlock.  Special mention must be made of Al's effects cameraman, Roswell Hoffman, who over 40 plus years with Universal had photogarphed and assembled thousands of terrific mattes.  Some of the shipboard scenes involve some of Whitlock's painted skies split screened against ocean horizons, with those shots used by Farciot Edouart as large and very clean looking rear projected process shots.  Interestingly, Albert painted all of the mattes in full colour and decided to let the black and white photography discern the correct shades of grey rather than to second guess the monochromatic features with dozens of mixed grey hues.  I heard that this film was submitted for Oscar consideration for Al's visual effects but failed to convince the God-like selection committee.
This may actually be a digital matte, I'm not sure - but here's a great tiltdown from the film THE SHADOW (1994).  The vast number of matte shots in the film were split between two leading effects houses: Illusion Arts with Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor and Matte World with Craig Barron and Mike Pangrazio.
The 1935 Leslie Howard film THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL had some impressive trick shots by Ned Mann and Walter Percy Day, with this giant 'crane' shot which rises up from a town square and over the rooftops in what I feel is a foreground hanging miniature by Mann's associate Ross Jacklin.  It's possible too that Poppa Day had a hand in this shot with painted glass, though he and Mann couldn't stand the sight of one another, so that would have been interesting.
Jack Cosgrove's beautiful matte painting for Alfred Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945).  Sadly this wonderful piece of precision artwork was wasted in a totally redundant throw away shot which is difficult even to spot (see below).

Cosgrove's composited SPELLBOUND painting now used as a rear screen process shot seen through a window with the camera pushing in toward the matte and the added kids playing in the snow.
Disney's SUMMER MAGIC (1963) was a pleasant Hayley Mills outing loaded with great matte shots including this exquisite opening tilt down onto period Boston.  Peter Ellenshaw was in charge but by his own admission "didn't do much" on this film.  I presume the matte was executed by Jim Fetherolf or Constantine Ganakes.  I don't think Alan Maley was on the Disney staff just yet.

Also from SUMMER MAGIC, a closing shot nearly as good as the above opening shot.  A multiplane matte shot with process projected live action near the barn.  Lovely work.
Laurel and Hardy's indescribable off the wall 1938 comedy SWISS MISS featured this tilt down matte shot.  Roy Seawright was photographic effects supervisor with artist Jack Shaw providing the glass painting.
Harrison Ellenshaw's multi plane matte shot pan from RETURN TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (1976).
ILM's AutoMatte camera system was put through it's paces for this composite from STAR TREK III-THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1983).  Matte painting possibly by Sean Joyce and photographed by Craig Barron.  The spaceship was an additional motion control shot miniature matte.

STAR TREK III

STAR TREK III - end of camera move.
A pull out matte painted composite from SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947).   I'm not sure, but if this is an RKO film(?) the painting is probably by Albert Maxwell Simpson or Fitch Fulton.

SINBAD THE SAILOR

SINBAD THE SAILOR - mid pull out

SINBAD THE SAILOR - end of camera move.
A difficult shot to reproduce as a still image, this mighty Alan Maley matte composite from the best Bond movie of them all, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977).  Production designer Ken Adam was ecstatic about this terrific and very complicated visual effects shot.  The shot starts on a close up of the chopper revving up and gradually pushes in and moves upward past gantries and windows filled with Stromberg's henchmen - and all complete with simulated lens flare.  According to Adam the only tangible set was a bit of floor with circles painted on it and a few extras - the rest was a mixture of 2 dimensional matte art, miniatures and front projected live action plates.  It's hard to describe here, but an absolute winner.  'Nobody does it better'.  *Thanks to my pal Domingo Lizcano for this montage.

SPY start of camera move

SPY - camera moves up and in

SPY - pushing in on window

SPY - evil madman Stromberg standing at the window as chopper lifts off.  I'd love to see a behind the scenes breakdown for this visual effect.
One of the rare tilt matte composites from Paramount Pictures who always tended toward the conservative 'middle of the road' matte shot.  These two are from the Humphrey Bogart picture WE'RE NO ANGELS (1955).  John P. Fulton was photographic effects man here with Jan Domela painting the mattes and Irmin Roberts photographing the same.

Another tilt up from WE'RE NO ANGELS with a far more effectively concealed matte line than the other.
Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor executed a number of evocative mattes for A WALK IN THE CLOUDS (1995) with this big camera move.  The shot has a curious 'early CG' look about it so it may in fact be non traditional.
A WALK IN THE CLOUDS

The made for tv miniseries THE WINDS OF WAR (1983) received an Emmy for best visual effects, among which was this broad, scenic matte painting by Ken Marschall of a wintery wartime landscape as seen through binoculars.  I liked the shot alot because matte cameraman Bruce Block introduced a wonderful lens flare and artifacts to lend a very convincing look to the shot.

Now, I love this remarkable shot from the 1995 Disney film WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN - excusing my feeble cut 'n paste of what is actually a phenomenal matte shot that's too wide to fit here.

Paul  Lasaine's magnificent matte painting prior to photography and compositing.

Detail of Paul's painting which I meant to include in my 'Mattes Up Close' previously.
WILD HEARTS - commencement of matte camera move

WILD HEARTS - camera move, almost all painted

WILD HEARTS - camera move continues.  Beach people and water are two separate live action plates. The shot was made on Disney's Matte Scan Mark II camera system with the live action as rear projected elements.

WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN - the final frame of the camera move on Paul Lasaine's painting.
Probably my all time favourite director, Sidney Lumet was an offbeat choice for a funky black Motown re-hash of a beloved family classic.  THE WIZ (1978) was a misfire on almost all levels except the visual effects.  Albert Whitlock's matte department at Universal Studios executed a range of dazzling mattes and complex visuals, though the shot I'm illustrating here of a wacky cinematic version of the World Trade Centre is an unusual effects shot, it is a technically interesting one.  Whitlock and his cameraman Bill Taylor worked out a procedure where the initial location shoot at the actual Twin Towers site in New York would be precisely matched back in the fx department with a miniature structure built as two wooden columns and meticulously painted with windows and architecture to match the actual towers, though for the scenario a linking arched bridge would now join the two towers.  Bill Taylor photographed the miniatures on a nodal head mount in frame by frame, carefully worked out to match the angle and ascent of the location photography.  The location footage was then merged with the miniature footage with a carefully concealed A and B roll lap dissolve, partly obscured with a deliberately burnt in lens flare.  The footage as seen in the film looks photo real and works a treat.

ILM's Oscar nominated effects for WILLOW (1988) were sensational and among their best work ever.  Matte cinematographer Craig Barron explained this shot to me:  "This was a Chris Evans matte painting - the Automatte camera system was employed for this pull back shot - live action village plate center (I shot the set that we built behind ILM in a empty lot) river plate added in to the right of the center village. Two more camera passes of photo blow ups added to the right and left hand side of the matte painting of hill side trees shot around Marin County, where ILM is located".



One of my all time favourite films, the 1935 Ronald Colman A TALE OF TWO CITIES ends with this impressive multi part effects shot as our protagonist is lead to the scaffold.  The shot's a beauty (as are all of the many mattes in the film) - with Colman in frame, presumably in front of a process screen, where a matte painting of Paris is projected.  The Hay's Code would take a dim view of executions so the camera POV tactfully ascends the guillotine and once at the top (where we hear the blade drop) then tilts skyward to the moody cloudscape and end titles.
The epic pull back that ends the substantial Carl Foreman film THE VICTORS (1963) was put together at Shepperton Studios under Wally Veevers.  Matte artist Bob Cuff with effects photography by Peter Harman.


I've written extensively about Warner Bros ever resourceful special effects unit in this and many of my other blog posts.  Here is another wonderful Stage 5 matte camera move from the Kirk Douglas film YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN (1950).  By this time, the studio's once great effects department was on the way to losing the high ground, with a noticeable lacklustre decade of matte and trick work of the 1950's.  This film however was one of the last great Warner pull out shots and looked great.  I forget who was effects chief here, probably Hans Koenecamp with Louis Litchtenfield, Mario Larrinaga and Jack Shaw painting mattes. This shot is really nice -  a naturalistic almost hand operated dolly move outwards which even has natural bumps as if travelling across an uncertain path.  The whole view appears to be matte art with just Kirk added, most probably as a brilliantly blended rear projection element - which I'm certain was the secret to all of those wonderful Warner matte moves.
This list is in alphabetical order (more or less) so by pure coincidence I've saved the best till last.  The absolute hands down, balls to the wall,  best motion matte/miniature visual effects shot of all time is none other than the brilliant 1942 James Cagney show YANKEE DOODLE DANDY.  This truly unforgettable visual effects shot lasts a full 93 seconds and is a continuous, fluid camera move across New York's Times Square, along Broadway, past numerous vaudeville houses and theatres - each with it's own glittering lit up marquees - then back again over the same territory though this time all the billboards and neons are different.  The camera POV then moves up the front of a building and over the rooftops into the Big Apple night!!!!!!!!!!    The film had no effects credit, amazingly, with the only pointer toward this mammoth VFX achievement being the sole title card for future director Don Siegel as 'montage director'.  At that period the role of a montage director was one of enormous creative control, with guys like Slavko Vorkapich and Peter Ballbusch being kings of this domain in Hollywood.  Siegel also shared that mantle of exclusive creativity with the Stage 5 special effects department under his umbrella.  Although I've never found any info expressly dealing with YANKEE DOODLE DANDY's effects I'll bet my left kidney that Siegel probably worked with Byron Haskin and Laurence Butler in designing this massive shot as (I'm guessing here) a combination of matte art, live action crowd elements, back lit animated marquees, miniatures and process.  Although the shot appears to be one continuous take, one can detect a subtle pause in two spots where separate takes have been carefully integrated.  Career Warner Bros effects cameraman Edwin DuPar certainly had a hand in this shot as his name appears on a shop frontage as an in joke - probably a motion picture first. 
...and so it begins

All of those signs and lights are flashing throughout the sequence.


According to Byron Haskin, at it's peak the WB effects dept had a huge staff of around 120, including their own editors, art directors, writers, cinematographers, some 8 matte artists, optical printer staff, miniaturists, carpenters, glassblowers, powder men, physical effects men, secretaries and more.  It must have been quite a place.


Given the limited depth of field of the lenses I presume the set up to be of considerable size as focus is perfectly held throughout the camera move.
The years also change as the shot progresses.







And none of the background action is static either...




I'd love to know the time frame in designing, constructing and photographing this sequence.









Artistic license prevailed so that all the signage related to George Cohan shows.




On the return camera pan many of the neon signs are for different shows - a nice touch.







A nice departmental nod to visual effects D.O.P Edwin DuPar





A sequence that must be seen in motion rather than in a collection of frame grabs.




...and so endeth a staggering visual effect set piece - and this article.



10 comments:

  1. Outstanding! I am in awe of your efforts and will be pouring over this post like a fine confection from a bakery!
    Two more nice Disney tilt shots were in 'Island at the top of the world' - from market upto the mountain,and 'In Search of the Castaways' = pan/tilt in the Andes!
    thanks again
    Michael Goldberg
    Nashville, TN

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  2. Finally! A new update to your blog. And what an outstanding one too. It's far to long since your latest entry and a hard time for those, who - like me - are addicted to those storys from the past. Please, don't keep us waiting for so long. But in the meantime I'm happy that you are still there an that everything seems to be ok.
    Can't wait to see those interviews with Yuricich an Danforth.
    All the best from Germany,
    Thomas

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  3. Hi Thomas

    It's always good to hear from you.
    Yeah, I've had some delays with this one but I think it was worth the wait. I try to do one every few weeks but don't think there's the interest out there for more frequent articles. The SMA forum is dead by the looks of it. Yes, You'll love the Jim Danforth piece I'm certain.

    Kind regards

    Peter

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    Replies
    1. There's interest! There's interest!

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  4. As ever - quite staggering. And technical questions I've had for years answered in this installment. Many thanks!

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  5. Bodenland Unbound21 April 2012 at 12:07

    The shot from THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN was filmed in the preserved ruins of Belchite, a village bombed during the Spanish Civil War. It wasn't filmed in a set in Cinecittà.

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  6. I must have gotten mixed up location info for the MUNCHAUSEN shot. It is a matte painted set extension though as I have the Ferris/Grant effects showreel with this and all the others included.

    Peter

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  7. As is often the case, the day I publish these things another great shot turns up and misses out. The 1952 MGM film PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE has a neat wide pan at the end which starts on a soundstage, dollies across the set and as it passes a tree we are then into an exterior with matte painted set top up by the Newcombe unit. Worth a look too for the absolutely superb Arnold Gillespie miniatures, with one of the best ever storm at sea sequences ever.
    An Oscar winner for visual effects.

    Peter

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  8. In regards to DAVID & BATHSHEBA, why would you refer to the walls of Jerusalem at this time as "Roman city walls?" Jerusalem (in Israel) is over 1,000 miles away from Rome (in Italy). This film takes places nearly 300 years before the founding of Rome, and nearly 1,000 years before Israel became part of the Roman Empire.

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  9. It appears that I got it wrong, historically speaking. My excuse: I saw the film a long time ago (hated it), grabbed the matte shots and dragged 'em out, dusted 'em off for this article and captioned same more as a technical description of the effects technique and overlooked the (very forgettable) scenario that the matte work tries to support.
    That's my alibi.

    Pete

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