Saturday, 24 October 2020

MATTE PAINTING REVIEW: A Selection of Overlooked Films - Part Twelve




Greetings friends, and welcome back to another retrospective journey down the boulevard of old school hand crafted special photographic effects, matte painting and other magical methods now consigned, for the most part sadly, to distant motion picture history.
Today's collection of films fall within the science-fiction realm, not entirely by design, rather that was just the way it seemed to shape up as I was pulling out folders of matte shots and the like.

I've got a couple of vintage Gene Roddenberry TV movies here from the seventies, as well as a bona-fide masterpiece of the genre dating back to the early fifties.  Also featured here today are a pair of Emmy Award winning George Lucas' matte-packed made for television epics from the mid-eighties, illustrated for the first time right here by way of wonderful High Definition screen grabs.
To round it all out, there's also a top notch Arnold Schwarzenegger show as well as a theatrically released pilot for a popular Space Opera series.

There is some truly spectacular matte work on display here in todays blog, with a large number of exponents of the artform celebrated, ranging from the veterans of long ago, such as the Sersen Department at 20th Century Fox, right on through to masters like Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton at Universal;  Dream Quest's Robert Scifo, as well as the magicians at Industrial Light & Magic - Michael Pangrazio, Christopher Evans, Sean Joyce and Caroleen Green - all of whom turned out remarkable matte trickery during the heyday of the photo-chemical era before it was all thrown mercilessly into the cinematic dumpster by the fast encroaching army of 'hard drives' and gigabytes, much like buzzards circling a lost lamb.  So sad.


Also, just for good measure here today are some stop-motion clips as well as some outstanding backlit cel-animated optical gags - an arena NZ Pete especially appreciates and gets a big kick out of.

So, with that, it's time to commence our collective and awe-inspiring cinematic journey.  
*(Apologies for any layout 'issues', as the Blogger platform has been apparently "re-invented" by Google, supposedly to make our user experience easier, though from past updates, this tends to end up being a major headache...).  This new version seems to have put an end to my idiosyncratic editorials where I place small pics at the left and right of the main body of text.  As the legendary BBC hotel proprietor, the misunderstood Mr Basil Fawlty once stated : "That particular avenue of pleasure has been closed off."

Enjoy, and I look forward to your feedback and comments.

Pete 



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Two of at least three special made-for-television films produced by Gene Roddenberry in the mid 1970's.  GENESIS II was the better of these two by a long shot.  I suspect both were shot back-to-back as some of the same cast and sets appear in both.  Note; another Roddenberry TV film of the era, THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974) was really very good, and though I have it on DVD, I'd dearly like to get it on BluRay.  Here's hoping.  


I think GENESIS II (1973), starring Alex Cord, was likely the pilot for a planned, though never produced sci-fi series.  It wasn't too bad in fact, taking into account the confines and limitations of 1970's made-for-tv films.

GENESIS II was mostly noteworthy for it's excellent matte painted shots, which for many years proved to be a mystery to me as to who had been responsible.  I'd always suspected the fine quality work to be that of the great Albert Whitlock - a suspicion that proved correct once I spotted the shots on one of Whitlock's showreels, courtesy of documentarian Walton Dornisch.



A blow up of the above matte of the nuclear power plant is hands down classic Whitlock in its composition, strong feeling of backlight and atmospheric haze as well as being high fidelity latent image matte photography, done as most of Al's were, on original negative.  The matte line is soft and well integrated into the plate, with a small amount of actual scenery retained in the near foreground.




Another show-stopping establishing shot courtesy of Whitlock, where the characters first see the city of the future.  Once again, superb matte art and an incredibly acute sense of light as was Whitlock's trademark.  Of note too for using unconventional matte line demarcation where one would least expect it, and once again, all photographed and composited (by longtime Universal fx cinematographer Roswell Hoffman and assistant Mike Moramarco) onto original negative for maximum fidelity.

I've enlarged the BluRay frame here.

Rare before and after frames from Albert's showreel, courtesy of Al's friend Walton Dornisch who documented the master and his career some 40 odd years ago.

The same view shown in a subsequent cut as a wider shot, with more distant painted scenery visible.  Whitlock's trademark multi-layered drifting clouds enhance an already spectacular vista.  Note the barely detectable soft matte line, expertly blended into the live action plate.

Not sure about this one.  The film ends with this setting sun, though it might well be a painted backing and some shrubbery?  Doesn't at all look like Whitlock's work.

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PLANET EARTH was shown on tv in 1974 and was probably fair game of the day but is terribly dated now.  

The film opens with a fairly spectacular, though uncredited establishing shot with the massive Ted Cassidy - who played Lurch in the old Addams Family series and also appears in Genesis II - shown as a zoom out.  Not sure who painted it, though quite likely Albert Whitlock as he did a lot of mattes for Gene Roddenberry over the years such as the original STAR TREK series as well as the other TV films mentioned above.

The same matte as shown optically 'zoomed in'.  Stylistically it's hard to pinpoint if Whitlock did this shot.  If it were somebody else, I'd suggest maybe someone like Matthew Yuricich, Louis Litchtenfield, or maybe even Jim Danforth?


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I'm not a fan of Arnie, though I have had the good fortune to attend a conference in his home town of Graz, in Austria, which was beautiful.  Anyhow, I digress... PREDATOR (1987) was Arnold's best film by a long shot.  A terrific, suspense filled and blood soaked jungle action ride, with amazing visual effects by R/Greenberg and Joel Hyneck which really (really!!) should have taken home the Academy Award for Best VFX that year, such was the superior and understated quality.

I've discussed the elaborate photographic effects in an earlier blog on optical effects, so I'm just examining the two matte painted shots here.  Dream Quest was a dynamite visual effects house throughout the 1980's and beyond, and turned out a brilliant array of dazzling and often invisible trick shots.  Various matte painters would come and go at Dream Quest throughout their glory years, with artist Robert Scifo (above) tenured during the late eighties.  Scifo began as a trainee matte painter under industry veteran Lou Litchtenfield on films like FLASH GORDON, and would become one of the most talented practitioners in his own right on scores of notable films such as TOTAL RECALL, MOONWALKER and THE SEVENTH SIGN.

There were just two mattes in PREDATOR, with the most important being the shot across the river at the bottom of the canyon where all definitely does not 'feel' right for our cast of muscled action stars.  Shown above is the original limited set prior to the matte being applied by Scifo at Dream Quest Images.

The exterior set with a preliminary sketch roughed in by Scifo to establish perspective, light and colour values.

Bob Scifo's original matte art.

The final composite (original negative?) as it appears in the film, with a memorably spooked Sonny Landham realising his time might be running out, and no matter how tough he thinks he his, this could be 'it'. (!!)

Close up of Scifo's matte art.



The other matte was a blink and you'd miss it night shot with full moon atop jungle canopy.  As good as the film was, they really should have left the monster as that semi-visible camouflaged entity the whole way through, and NOT revealed the ole' guy-in-a-suit for the final act, which killed the otherwise quite terrifying WTF nature of the unseen beast.  Less is more!  About the only time the guy in a suit ever worked a treat was for Ridley Scott's masterpiece ALIEN, coz Ridley knew what to show and just how little was needed to make you freak out.


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The first of a pair of special made-for-television LucasFilm features depicting furry little creatures called EWOKS.  This one, CARAVAN OF COURAGE (1984) was the first, and while generally aimed at kids, wasn't too bad.  Both films were however released in cinemas in much of the world and were popular, with subsequent releases on home video and DVD being less than desirable, it is great to see them finally in high def on BluRay, not least for the scores of beautiful ILM matte shots.  Both CAVARAN OF COURAGE and it's follow up THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR were awarded Emmy's for Best Special Visual Effects.

I do have a full and complete article on all of Industrial Light & Magic's traditional era matte painted work in preparation, but considered celebrating these two films here due to the sheer volume of mattes. Shown above are several key creative ILM staffers at work on the EWOK show.  Top left is matte artist Caroleen Green, seen here painting a forest canopy for the second EWOKS film.  Top right is matte camera supervisor Neil Krepela with the special front projection rig employed for some of the matte composites.  Bottom left is matte cameraman Craig Barron, setting up an exterior latent image matte shot.   Bottom right is ILM miniatures expert and matte assistant Paul Huston, again masking off a latent image split screen shot.

Another key creative force within ILM's matte department was the highly talented young artist Frank Ordaz.  Frank was a vital member of the department throughout the 1980's and painted on a number of high profile shows.  An exceptional talent.

Senior matte artist, Christopher Evans, is shown here at work on a vast matte that may well be for RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

Another of ILM's stable of skilled matte artists was Caroleen Green - another of the 'dream team' of exceptional talent acquired by the organisation through the 1980's - certainly the heyday of ILM movie magic.



There are so many mattes in CARAVAN OF COURAGE that in addition to the ILM artists, some additional mattes had to be farmed out to other suppliers to meet demand and deadlines.

Most of the EWOK mattes were planned and executed as original negative composites in order that the best resolution possible be achieved for television transmission, where deficits in broadcast technology of the day would likely render 'dupe' mattes as less than desirable.

A single frame from the above tilt down.  Worth noting that future director of such critically acclaimed films as SE7EN, ALIEN 3 and ZODIAC, David Fincher, was matte cameraman at ILM for a time and photographed mattes for this film.



As crisp and sharp as the HD transfer was, it was very, very dark, rendering many effects shots quite hard to fully appreciate.  I've had to lighten the levels on many frames just so as to make them clearly visible.  Some were so dark that attempts to adjust the levels tended to deteriorate rather than improve the shot.  I did the best I could.


One of the original matte paintings as it was prior to photography and comping with foreground blue screen actors.

Detail

Close up of the brushwork.  Love it!



The painting as it appears on screen with blue screened characters added in.



As mentioned above, some of the EWOK matte work was completed elsewhere, with this beautiful dawn setting painted by Jim Danforth.

Close look at Jim's brushwork.

Unfortunately, the final comp looked extremely dark in the new BluRay edition (the older VHS looked much lighter), so I've had to raise the levels a little just to appreciate the matte, though it was starting to 'wash out'.


One of the stop motion set pieces from CARAVAN OF COURAGE, supervised by Phil Tippett.

More matte art.

The Ewok village - a full painting with doubled in flaming torch elements.

Follow up shot of the Ewok treetop dwellings with live action added.

Another view of the village with matted in action.

Now this shot is most interesting.  What appears to be a stage set sans any trick work seems upon close inspection to be a matte shot.  The extreme right side of the scene appears to be a separate painted element, matted in, possibly done as a fix to eliminate unwanted material from the original shoot (?)

As discussed earlier, certain shots were farmed out to other matte departments, with this one going to Al Whitlock's department at Universal Studios.  Possibly painted by Syd Dutton, with other shots as well supplied (?)

The final original negative result.


The trek through the forest was wall to wall matte shots, as was a later desert trek to lands far away.

A matte shot that I particularly like.


Actual setting augmented with matte art.

Very dark in HD print and hard to see, so lightened a little here.

A shot most poetic.

ILM's strength during those glory years was in the artform of beautifully executed backlit cel animation gags,  The plethora of CG type business doesn't hold a candle to the old hand made cel gags.


Another skilled painter in the employ of ILM at the time was Sean Joyce.  Sean was one of the few who preferred the traditional approach with oils and glass, and never felt inclined to transition over to the tools of the digital era.


Another matte I'm very fond of.  I'm trying to recall whether this too could have been a Jim Danforth shot?

This one is a sure show stopper as far as matte shots go, and done with a slow pan from right to left, with a fantastical alien landscape coming into shot.  
Before and after for follow up shot, made on the original negative.



Finished composite is a thing of greatness.


A grand tilt up shot, most of which is painted.  Wonderful!

Closer view of the mountain matte art.


Closer view of the lower painted area's of the shot before the tilt commences.  Note the painted in canyon walls to the left.

Once inside the mountain cave the intrepid group come across the biggest god-damned spiders web you ever saw (shame about the very feeble marionet spider in subsequent closer attack shots... dire).

Artist Frank Ordaz at work on the spiders cavern glass painting.  Note the overhanging stalactites visible here but seemingly omitted from the final composite version for some reason.

A closer in view from the same sequence.  Note the actors matted into Ordaz' painting at left.

Yet another terrific matte shot from same sequence.

Chief matte artists were Mike Pangrazio and Chris Evans.  Pangrazio got his start as a trainee matte painter with the Introvision company in the late 1970's and moved over to ILM just in time for the mammoth EMPIRE STRIKES BACK project in 1980.  Evans joined the company a few years later, I think it was for either DRAGONSLAYER or STAR TREK-THE WRATH OF KHAN in 1982 if I'm correct.  Both would later join up with another former ILM alumnus, Craig Barron, and start the specialty fx house Matte World.  In recent years Pangrazio has been resident here in New Zealand as a part of Peter Jackson's WETA Digital, largely in the role of Production Designer.


A pan matte shot as our characters come into frame at left.  Not sure if the camera moves were made on the ILM AutoMatte set up or done on the optical printer.  Whatever, they all look great.

Either matte art or miniature set, with actors all too obviously blue screened in.

A subtle camera move as they rush toward the edge of an abyss - painted of course.



A massive tilt down on an entirely painted vista.

A closer look at part of the same painted vista.


A Caroleen Green matte painted treeline with doubled in hang glider.

A full painting with, as I recall, a stop motion wolf (or something?)


I'm not sure, but feel this shot is to some extent painted.  The tents certainly look painted, and maybe the mountains too.


Supervising matte artist Michael Pangrazio is shown here painting the mountainous scenery and vally for one of the trek scenes.  Closer inspection of Mike's painting on the easel shows a completely different painting visible underneath the EWOK matte art?  Presumably some rejected or unfinished matte art from a different project.


Two mattes in one, it would seem?





An original EWOKS matte shown here on the ILM matte stand.  This is one of Caroleen Green's paintings.


Caroleen's exquisite full painting as it appears in the film.

The final matte from CARAVAN OF COURAGE which is another motion shot with an extreme tilt.


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The first one was a hit, so LucasFilm followed it up with another in 1985, which, like it's predecessor, also won the Emmy for outstanding visual effects.

Senior ILM matte painter, Christopher Evans, at work on a matte of the Ewok village.


A revealing photo of the matte painting at ILM used for the dramatic opening tilt down reveal.

Matte painting combined with live action for the vast reveal that opens BATTLE FOR ENDOR (1985)

A closer look at the brush technique and wonderful sense of light and atmospheric phenomena.

More sensational detail for us amateur painters to study and enjoy.


In order to break out of the so-called 'static nature' of a painted matte, ILM introduced a great many camera moves into such shots, and usually with much success.  Another incredibly dark frame that I had to lift the levels slightly for your viewing pleasure.

Now kids...don't try this at home.

Very dark matte frames lose some resolution when adjusted for this blog, but otherwise you'd barely be able to make out anything.



Stop motion sequence.


Painting and miniature.

'I never thought I'd ever see a matte, as beautiful as that....' (or so said the poet).

Half painted, half location, combined as another of those epic tilt downs, and a push in on the ground level action.

Full frame from the top of the matte sequence.

Phil Tippett was overall supervisor here, while key stop motion animators were Tom St. Amand and Randy Dutra, while the multi-talented Harry Walton served as principal cinematographer.

Creatures From The ILM Lagoon.

Nice atmosphere and miniature settings.




At the risk of repeating myself... this is not a static matte shot.

Painted half of the previous shot.



A very cool shot and an excellent bit of trickery where our rider approaches the castle gates.  Practically all painted, and superbly realised perspective for the camera move.

Close up of some of the painted area.

Castle and battlements by moonlight.  An extensive matte painting (see below...)

The original and very sizable matte hanging on the wall at Industrial Light & Magic.



Painted detail.

Newsflash!!!  Cuddly toy makes his getaway from intergalactic Colditz.

I'm not certain but I think the walls and gargoyles etc have been painted into a limited set.
I just love old school 'effects animation'.  You know, the sort of thing drawn by hand and backlit on an Oxberry or similar animation stand.  Disney were utter marvels at this sort of 'gag' of course.  Here is one of the several cel animated sequences in BATTLE FOR ENDOR that look sensational.  I think Bruce Walters was in charge of this work, though I did notice Peter Kuran's company VCE in the credit roll - with Kuran a genius with this sort of work.



Further examples.

ILM really mastered the art during the eighties, with so many great and memorable bits of cel animated greatness - some subtle and others of near Biblical scale.  


The other form of animation - with ball and socket joints etc.

Another one of those shots that appear to have been extended via matte art (left half of frame), possibly as a cost saving measure?

Matte or miniature, I know not, but something tricky is going on.

"Where's that bloody 'Yellow Brick Road' we're supposed to follow?"

From the 'must own' FX Bible ILM-The Art of Special Effects


Paul Huston and others set up an in-camera split screen shot with a miniature castle.


The small scale miniature castle is photographed on the exact same locale as the live action will be, though the fixtures propping up the model will be split screened out for the second run through the matte camera.

Effective merging of stop motion, live action and matte art.


The miniature castle as seen at dawn.

Castle again, but this time a painted one, matted with live action.  Note the painted landscape across and down the right side of the frame.

An interesting example of an otherwise invisible matte, painted here by Frank Ordaz, with his own demarcation inscribed to roughly show where the real ends and the imagined begins.  Oddly, Frank's meticulous ship engine detail has been cropped out of the finished release print.


Here's a better HQ frame showing Frank's matte artistry.

Another invisible o/neg matte that nobody noticed.


Superbly painted and composited, with almost all of the frame being manufactured in the ILM matte department.

The final farewell, with miniatures, motion control, painted art and travelling matte action.


I note that one of the matte painters was someone named simply 'Lazarus', about whom I know nothing, nor have ever seen the name before.



ILM's matte department in 1981, with Michael Pangrazio (left) and Christopher Evans (right) painting on the film DRAGONSLAYER.

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Time now for an oldie.... and one of my favourites.  THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) - and no, not the Keanu Reeves time filler folks, but the masterful Michael Rennie original, directed by the great Robert Wise.

Promoted as a 'spacemen invade Earth' flick, that couldn't be further from the truth.  The film is actually a low key, though superbly written and directed statement about peace, and, set as it is (and filmed) during the Cold War.  The picture was unique and stood apart on it's own merits in an era where Drive-In fodder with little green men and such were gaining popularity.  This is a film that just keeps improving each time I see it, though admittedly, the giant metallic robot Gort did give me nightmares when I saw it first on TV as a kid, especially with Bernard Herrmann's one of a kind eerie score omni-present.


Not a big effects movie, and for the most part deliberately limited in spectacle, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) still utilised the resources of Fred Sersen's trick shot department at Fox to the max, mainly in subtle but important ways, and to great on screen effect that compliment and never take the limelight from an intelligent film.

Chief matte artist at 20th Century Fox was Emil Kosa jnr, who held that post from 1933 up until his death in 1968.  Emil's work went by uncredited for decades until the late 1950's when L.B Abbott took over the Fox special effects department and saw to it that Emil received screen credits where applicable.  Kosa's father, Emil senior, was also a matte artist at the studio in the 1940's as well as some work at MGM.
The film opens with a flying object of the saucer variety circling over Washington and landing.  The sequences are very well done, with carefully animated shadow visible under the matted in model saucer as it passes over structures and parks.  Interestingly, a fresh newcomer to the Sersen department by the name of Matthew Yuricich worked on the film in a junior capacity, and actually manipulated and 'flew' the model spacecraft.  The visual effect here was explained in detail by L.B Abbott in his memoir 'Special Effects-Wire, Tape & Rubber Band Style'"The script demanded shots of a large white saucer approaching and landing among familiar Washington landmarks.  Fred Sersen had provided some sketches of his concept, and when the location shots arrived from Washington he called me into his office and showed me his sketches and the clips of the 2nd unit backgrounds.  Fred explained that the ship should have a pulsating glow that would appear and recede every 5 seconds.  Then he said "I would very much appreciate it if you would do the chore" Having no alternative, I said, "Surely".  During the night I did a bit of mulling and finally went to sleep feeling the problems were solved.  The scenes of the ship flying by the Washington buildings were, of course, a cinch.  But when the ship landed in a large park, I had  a problem.  Obviously as the ship approached the ground it should cast a shadow.  We built a 2 foot miniature of the ship, but the difficulty was that we would have to land the ship twice at exactly the same speed - once for the image of the ship itself and once more for it's shadow.  I spoke with my mechanical expert friends and we came up with a solution.  We would lower the ship on a fine wire, by gravity.  It would be stabilized by another fine wire.  A prop man would manipulate the lowering device with a crank which would uncoil the wire from a spool.  We would carefully chart the rate of descent using a metronome and a pointer on a circular piece of cardboard.  We shot the ship landing against black.  Then we painted the ship black and changed the table top to white.  When duping the location scene, we carried a holdback of the shadow bi-packed with the positive of the scene in the optical head.  The ship was doubled in twice - once as a sharp image and again using a fog filter, varying the exposure to make the glow pulsate".


Aside from some second unit work, the whole film was shot in California.  Matte paintings were rendered to provide key establishing shots and settings such as this.  Ray Kellogg was Fred Sersen's right hand man and an able matte artist in his own right.  L.B (Lenwood Ballard) Abbott was effects director of photography and would prove to be one of the biggest assets to the Sersen department, and later on through the Kellogg era until himself becoming head in 1957.

I'm fairly sure the treeline has been painted in here.  The spaceship itself is a remarkable bit of minimalist work, with a gantry that seemingly melts back into the superstructure with no visible seams, as does the main door from which our alien visitors Klaatu and Gort emerge.  The film is really 'made' by the literally hair raising score by the legendary Bernard Herrmann - quite possibly his best.  A lot of folks say PSYCHO was his best, but my money's on this film.

Again, painted in treeline as seen from a reverse angle.  Just love that ship.


The guardian of the ship, the monstrous Gort, provides emergency defense measures and evaporates any threat with ease (and roto animation).

Roto ray eliminates US military. The actual hardware looks as if it could be photographic touch ups - a technique often employed by Fox - matted into a shot for the destruction that is to follow.

Effective animation, rotoscope and optical work.

A reminder that the message here from our inter-galactic visitors is one of peace, and the measures taken were justified.

Mid point in the film, the visitor Klaatu, makes his point by making all of the power sources in the world 'stop' for an hour, resulting in every vehicle and piece of machinery conking out (not sure what happened with passenger aircraft high in the clouds?).  One of a series of cleverly rendered effects shots where either actual footage (such as here) or photographic blow ups, have been substantially modified by matte artists to literally create a global stand still. This view of Times Square is well done, with a great many painted vehicles matted into a live action plate.


Another of the same sequence is almost entirely painted by Kosa or one of the other Fox matte artists.


Even London is hit, and a similar photographic effect is applied, with live action plate and detailed, matte painted traffic.

Given the film's Cold War undercurrent, even Moscow gets the Klaatu treatment in this magnificent matte painted shot.

Paris takes it square between the Eiffel Tower and the Arch Triumph, with what I assume to be either a vast matte painting or a substantially retouched photo blow up of the setting, with a great deal of painted in traffic and additional live action crowds matted in.

A cleverly done bit of trickery here, where the enormous metallic Gort disintegrates a cell wall.  The sizable jagged hole was already prepared by the art department and in place, and it fell to Fred Sersen to provide the 'complete' undisturbed wall as an Emil Kosa matte painting, which was then optically dissolved out with cel animated glow.  The bars in the foreground were a separate element altogether, matted in later.  This roto work may well have been carried out by the fresh young Matthew Yuricich and another equally new matte department staffer, Jim Fetherolf - both of whom were assigned just this sort of precision work tracing and inking mattes for special gags within production and trick shots as part of their training before being allowed to embark on matte painting duties.  James B. Gordon was head of optical effects at Fox for many years.  


The finale features an extensive matte painting with a miniature saucer doubled in.

Lift off, so please fasten your seat belts and refrain from smoking for the next 22 light years until we reach our home planet.  Great shot.  Excellent matte art, saucer glow, and of course, that haunting Bernard Herrmann theremin score that stays with the viewer long after the fact.


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BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY (1979) was the pilot movie for a popular TV series from Universal that ran for several seasons from around 1980 or so.  I quite liked this and I saw it on the big screen here doubled with the not as good pilot for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA at our magnificent 1920's showcase movie palace, The Civic.  The huge cinema was jam packed that day, which for a 2500 odd seat venue, was pretty amazing for a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.

Lots of motion control model work, carried out at the newly established Universal Hartland, which was a separate VFX facility not part of the Universal City Studios property.  Peter Anderson, David Garber and Wayne Smith ran the photographic effects unit, though all of the pilot/feature film's matte paintings were executed and created by Syd Dutton in the Al Whitlock matte department back at Universal with Bill Taylor, Mike Moramarco and Dennis Glouner all involved with the camera side of things.  The subsequent television series would see some of Dutton's mattes recycled, though new talent was brought in by way of David Stipes Productions vfx facility to supply the new mattes.  Jena Holman was principal matte painter for David, with Dan Curry also coming on board to render additional mattes.

Earth's cities take on a whole different look 500 years from now.  Must be global warming.  A full painting by Syd Dutton, with a motion control spaceship added in subsequent frames.

I well remember being blown away by the matte shots back in '79 (oddly credited as "Matt Paintings by Syd Dutton"), and this one looked a million dollars up on the big screen.  A fabulous night vista of, if I recall, New Chicago, complete with monorail traffic speeding along.  Sensational!

Upper photo is of the original matte painting on the matte stand prior gags being doubled in.

My personal fave among Syd's mattes for BUCK ROGERS was this beautiful day shot of the same city, complete with bi-packed in flying vehicle zooming by.  Matte fans can really see Whitlock's influence on Dutton, with a strong feeling of backlight, haze and depth.  Love it, and in fact told Syd the same when I met him back in '86 (the only actual matte or effects artist I've ever met in person) and saw his showreels with all of these plus a ton of Albert's great before and afters in 35mm on a preview theatre screen.  Stayed with me till this very day, as you'd expect!  :)
More exterior matte enhancements with flying traffic and monorails etc.   


An impressive and decorative ceiling was most likely the work of Syd Dutton rather than the set construction boys.  Ceilings are probably the most common matte effects painted in for hundreds of films since the silent era.

Buck and robotic pal Twiki (voiced by Mel Blanc no less) fail to take notice of stern advice and decide to head out across the tracks to the bad side of town.  The matte line runs at the diagonal across and down the screen, with most painted in by Dutton.

Another great shot of the once great city that's now the haunt of disreputable types.  Again, the Whitlock influence is all there in Syd's style and technique.  I've been planning a 'Post-Apocalyptic Mattes Blog' for a while now, and really must get on with it.

These pictures relate to the subsequent television series.  At lower left is David Stipes with one of the tv mattes (multi-plane by the looks of it) on his matte stand ready for photography.  Standing at right is artist Jena Holman with one of her BUCK ROGERS mattes.  Jena was a highly talented matte painter and worked often with David on various projects before her untimely passing at a young age.  David once told me she was such a shy lady it was next to impossible to get a snapshot of her at work, as she always hid from the camera.  Jena painted on shows like METEOR, THE JAGGED EDGE, THE PRIMEVALS and THE DAY AFTER to name just a few.

A Jena Holman matte painting.  I believe Syd came by the Hartland effects facility once or twice to lend advice or guidance on some of the TV mattes.

A rare before and after of one of Jena Holman's mattes from an episode of BUCK ROGERS, photographed and composited by David Stipes on original negative.


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That's all for now.  Catch you all next time.  Stay safe wherever you are.

Pete




















14 comments:

  1. Where did you get the Ewoks on blu ray (is it available in the US) ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your work, Pete!
    Geoff from Wellywood

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Geoff... that is appreciated, especially as I never know whether any other Kiwi's are even aware (or interested) in my blog!

      All the best

      Pete

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    2. Count me as another fellow Kiwi subscriber - I love the content you publish here.

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    3. Hi Andrew...

      Well, that makes 3 of us. Is it too late to start our own political party?
      There have been wackier excuses!

      Pete

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  3. Outstanding! Love the Ewok revisits! Brilliant stuff as always, Pete!

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    1. Thanks David... and good to hear from you again.
      A lot of folks have fond memories for those furry, squawking, stuffed toy EWOK guys (!) Glad you enjoyed the article.

      all the best

      Pete

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  4. Amazing!! the predetor on is a delight

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  5. You are a national treasure, Pete - Mike from Welly

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  6. Glad to see a new post! Those Ewok paintings are great- never seen the film, but now I want to check it out.

    Keep up the awesome work!
    -Mike

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  7. You've earned yet another BIG Tip of the Hat for your extraordinary research. You have my undying respect for keeping alive the art and artistry that helped make so many films and TV series memorable. PLEASE keep up the good work! AND - stay well!

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    1. Hi Wolfie

      Thanks for those kind words my friend. I know well that you also love the 'old school' pre-CG movie wizardry, and have a great appreciation, as well as knowledge of "the techniques of the past".

      Pete

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  8. These old techniques are really good, where the role of creativity is at its peak. Thanks for the psot.

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    1. I couldn't have put it any better myself. Bravo.

      Pete

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