Directed by Paul Anderson
Visual Effects Supervisor: Richard Yuricich

Visual Effects Produced by:

  Sequence Supervisors: Ed Hawkins, Sue Rowe, Tom Wood, Mark Nettleton and Matt Johnson
  VFX Producer: Alex Bicknell

  VFX Producer: Alison O'Brien

Motion-Control Photography by

Special Miniatures Created by
MASS.ILLUSION, Supervisor: Joel Hynek

Model Miniatures Supervisor: David B. Sharp

Makeup Effects by: ANIMATED EXTRAS

Prosthetics and Animatronics by: IMAGE ANIMATION

[credits not complete]


Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill star in this epic sci-fi film, with visual effects supervised by legendary effects artist, Richard Yuricich, who helped create visual effects for such pioneering films as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and BLADE RUNNER.

Using a plethora of techniques, including a great deal of motion control photography of model miniatures, CGI animation, blue & greenscreen photography, and a ton of digital tricks and manipulations, the visual effects producers of EVENT HORIZON have completed a fine effort in creating their futuristic world. The visual effects were created almost entirely in Europe, with elements created by Cinesite Europe, CFC London and London's The Magic Camera Company, with some miniature elements created by the U.S.' Mass.Illusion.

Set in the year 2047, the "Lewis & Clark" rescue ship heads to Neptune to investigate the "Event Horizon", an enormous, secret ship that has been missing for seven years.

The opening title sequence is set against a cheesy yet effective background--a tunnel of rotating blue vapors that the camera travels through. The mist is nearly monochromatic blue, and the particles are interesting to watch, although some banding of blue tones occur at the edges of the frame.

Many of the shots introducing or featuring the "Lewis & Clark" and the "Event Horizon" are highlighted by camera moves that are long, fast arcs of motion. In scale, the camera moves hundreds of feet in a matter of seconds, while keeping perfect focus and frame composition, and whose arc begins and ends perfectly stationary. A shot of Dr. Weir (Sam Neill) who is standing at a window of an Earth-orbiting space station begins pulling backward, outside the window, revealing the vastness of space, the Earth below, and the gigantic space station. The shot continues pulling backwards to reveal the whole station, rotating many, many times in the process.

There are many other instances of this 'otherworldly' camera movement. There are a number of shots of the "Event Horizon" ship that follow this pattern. In the middle of the film, the "Lewis & Clark" is docked on the "Event Horizon," while a crewmember, donning a space suit, is making repairs on the hull. The camera begins at a stationary point hundreds of feet above the ships. It then zooms down toward the ships, and in a matter of seconds, settles and stops right in front of the "Lewis & Clark", where we clearly see a crewmember walking along the massive hull. These shots are technically brilliant--the clouds are match-moved precisely with the camera move, the models are composited well into the frame, and the bluescreen elements match the dimensionality of the camera moves, as well. These camera moves, however, couldn't possibly have been created with a 'real' camera, because of their dramatic speeds reached and their ability to stop on a dime.

This particular shot was created with model miniatures of the two ships; the "Event Horizon"'s miniature measured 30 feet long. Each one of the space shots was intensely complicated with interactive lighting issues. The clouds surrounding the ships produce a massive amount of lighting, which lit up the mist and clouds around the ship--and also illumates the ships as well.

This style of the space shots is used consistently throughout the movie. Another 'otherworldly' space shot occurs as the "Lewis & Clark" approaches Neptune for the first time; as the ship flies by the camera, a moon of Neptune is perfectly positioned to cover up the entire planet. As the camera move continues, the moon reveals the stormy planet. Once again, the shot was executed with the utmost of confidence--it's simply that the design of the shot is far too perfect to be believed as 'real.'

Particularly memorable from the views of Neptune from space is the swirling winds and storms clearly visible from a wide orbit.

As the crew of the "Lewis & Clark" enter the massive ship, a series of hallucinations paralyze the rescue team. Among them are Dr. Weir's horrific vision of his dead wife appearing before him, with her eyes missing. This same effect was used for Dr. Weir himself, later in the film, and it is an interesting and original effect. The actors wore special contact lenses on the set, which featured reference points exactly in the center of the contact. These reference points were later 3D tracked at Cinesite's London facility, which allowed artists to create a 3D interior representation of the actor's heads. The 2D department digitally removed the contact lenses and the actor's eyes, and the CG element was composited into the frame. The resulting shots make it seem like the viewer can see right into the actors' head through the eyesockets.

As the rescue team venture into the "Event Horizon", they must travel through the ship without the aid of artificial gravity. As the men and women walk around the ship in their magnetic boots to keep them on the ground, various shipboard objects float around them. A massive amount of CG props were created for these sequences, including water bottles, liquid coolant, and other various props. The most intriguing and visually interesting item is certainly the water bottle, which drifted with dozens of water droplets suspended in mid-air. A crewmember then whips his flashlight through the water and bottle. The bottle and droplets were created in CG at Cinesite, and the way the items interact with the flashlight's beam is highly realistic and dramatic. It is one of the most memorable effects shots of the entire film.

As the crew come across gobules of liquid coolant floating in the zero-g environment, a few CG gags are executed--a gobule of coolant actually hits the camera, a crewmember walks right through a few gobs of liquid, among others. While the reflections of the CG liquid are accurate and realistic, the animation sometimes falls short. The best animation of zero-g liquid occurs as a crewmember begins to decompress as he drifts through space (without a suit) and spurts blood from his mouth and nose. Zero-g liquid was first represented with CG in 1991's STAR TREK VI, where Klingon blood traveled through a ship without artificial gravity. Although the technology was still in its infant stage, ILM's animation was quite realistic and believable.

Probably the best effects the movie occurs as Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) traverses hundreds of feet outside the hull of the "Event Horizon" in his attempt to save a fellow crewmember. With Miller inside his spacesuit, the shot begins with the camera tilted down. Miller quickly approaches the camera and zooms by as the camera tilts up to follow him. The Miller element was a stage-shot greenscreen element, while the background is actually two motion-control shot miniature passes blended as one. The angles match perfectly, and the compositing of the clouds below and the greenscreen elements make the shot the finest of the film.

All hell breaks loose as the core of the "Event Horizon" is activated. The hallucinations cause one character played by Kathleen Quinlan to fall down a shaft to her death, landing right next to the core. The last shot of the sequence, where the character actually smashes to the ground, was produced with a mix of on-set elements, greenscreen photography, and a few digital tricks. An animatronic version of the actress was raised to the top of the core set. Since the set was 'only' 65 feet high, and director Paul Anderson wanted the set to appear much larger, a greenscreen was hung behind the animatronic dummy, so that the top of the set could be removed in post-production. The dummy was dropped to the ground, while the camera tilted to track the action.

The shot then went to Computer Film Company London, where the greenscreen was removed, and a new, larger set was painted in its place. Kathleen Quinlan's face was even digitally tracked onto the animatronic dummy, to add further realism to the shot.

As Dr. Weir's plans are revealed, he is burned up alive, but not before making Captain Miller's life miserable. A toasted Weir, with his entire body on fire, makes plenty of appearances near the end of the film. This dramatic, realistic effect was completed with a combination of animatronic on-set devices, and digitally tracked fire. CFC handled many of the fire elements, placing them not only on Weir's animatronic body, but on Miller, as well. Miller is thrown against a wall of fire, and scurries to put himself out in a cool slow motion shot. The fire is extremely realistic--Cinesite handled the burning man shots, while CFC did an nice face replacement for the sequence.

The massive (and inevitable) explosion of "Event Horizon" that ends the film features some really nice shots of miniatures being blasted away, as well as the rings of fire that expand from the center of the ship. These shots are visually interesting, especially the fire elements--unfortunately, these shots end too quickly, leaving the viewer wanting to see more of the ship's demise.

The effects houses involved also handled numerous shots of wire and prop removals, as a part of the 250 effects shots featured in EVENT HORIZON.

EVENT HORIZON, as directed by Paul Anderson, is a composite of plenty of other sci-fi films, sometimes using near-exact duplicate lines of dialogue and sequences from other classics. Take elements from THE ABYSS, sequences from ALIEN and ALIENS, add a little STAR TREK, a dash of STARGATE and a pinch of THE OMEN, and you end up with EVENT HORIZON. There isn't anything particularly innovative presented in EVENT HORIZON, and the characters are presented as cardboard, 2-dimensional people.

Check out Cinefex 73 and American Cinematographer Aug. '97.
Official Web Site: http://www.eventhorizonmovie.com

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. . VFX HQ Produced by Todd Vaziri . . http://www.vfxhq.com . . e-mail: tvaziri@gmail.com . .
All text Copyright © 1998 Todd Vaziri, unless otherwise noted