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With the ENR and color difference problems taken care of, there was one more interesting obstacle in the miniature crew's way. The models were photographed at the old Hughes Aircraft hangars in Playa Del Rey, the same place where miniatures were shot for INDEPENDENCE DAY and TITANIC. Lewis explained, "The whole area is essentially a swamp, or a tidal basin of some sort. I had heard all these strange stories about things moving in the building relative to the tides. There were tales from machinists that worked there about parts warping at a certain time of day. It

"We heard all these stories and urban myths about shooting there. But we did notice that something was going on..."

Joe Lewis,
on shooting in Playa Del Rey

was all very bizarre. We heard all these stories and urban myths about shooting there. But we did notice that something was going on..."

What was going on? Henry said, "We realized that our floor was moving with the tides. Even though we have blocks of cement four feet deep as our foundation out there in the hangar, it moved." Any movement, even slight, is monumentally significant when in comes to the precice nature of motion control photography. "We would get motion control passes of our models that would astonish us," Henry said, "passes that should be completely locked off that would have registration problems, like the blue object spilling over into the redscreen area on our combo passes."

Lewis said, "Even a 1/4" move on a motion control track is death, so we couldn't afford that kind of movement. We had about 54 feet of track with this one system--we eventually had to get Michael O'Brien, an ace rigger, out here just about every week to relevel our track." In the end, slight misregistrations of the matte passes and beauty passes would be resolved digitally by Duboi.

Motion control setups were not limited to miniature photography. General Lift also provided a setup for a dramatic shot that takes place as the heroes are about to leave the ship on the Betty. As Purvis' chestburster is ready to be born, the camera flies toward his face and enters his mouth, decending through his esophagus, and ends up on the little critter. Because the shot would be pieced together with multiple passes, Joe Lewis explained, "We built the motion control system for that to use on set, in real time. We basically cut a big whole in the top of the Betty set, we put a track up on top of it. Everything was hanging up above, and the path of the camera was straight down toward his throat."

Two passes were necessary, Lewis said: "One was from a big, Panavision lens that traveled from the beginning of the shot and stopped about one inch away from his mouth. For the next pass, we put a probe lens and fiber-optic light on the camera, started the shot inside his mouth, and pulled away from his mouth backward." The final part of the shot was photographed within an oversized prosthetic esophagus that was built at three times scale. "The camera weaves through this esophagus and ends up on the little chestburster puppet," Lewis explained. Duboi then composited those pieces of film together into one seamless shot.

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