Behind the Scenes

FLUBBER - FX Credits - FX Review - Behind the Scenes - Stills

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Among the shots not involving the flying car or the flying goo were dozens upon dozens of extensive wire removals. Handling many of the wire removals, as well as other compositing duties on the film, was Santa Monica's POP Film, one of the industry's

"Just about every one of the actors was on wires for those basketball sequences."

Ken Littleton

finest compositing houses. Supervising the POP effort was Ken Littleton, who recently co-supervised POP's STARSHIP TROOPERS shots.

Littleton told me, "As we started FLUBBER, we were just closing out on TROOPERS so we were handed a lot of shots quickly, usually involving wire removals or time compression." One particular shot was one of the last shots of the movie, the begins with the Professor's house exploding, and the bowling ball and golf ball bouncing in and out of frame. "We built both balls in 3D and animated them into the shot, and we also had to remove the sky. The sky in the background plate of the house exploding was overcast. We did a soft split of the sky, and composited a new sky element from still photos taken by Peter [Crosman, FLUBBER's visual effects supervisor]. We were able to contruct a pretty nice, partly overcast sky." POP created the tilt up to the sky, as well as the cross dissolve to the shot of a 747 airplane entering frame. "We had to do some time compression on those shots," Littleton said, "because the timing of the sequence was slightly changed by editorial, in that the end of the film was originally going to be paced differently."

A great deal of POP's shots occur within the basketball game, where the Professor Flubberizes his team's shoes, causing them to bounce dozens of feet in the air. "Just about every one of the actors was on wires for those basketball sequences," Littleton said. "They were pretty much straightforward wire removals. In addition, many of those shots we time compressed to shorten the shots, and to pick up the pace of the action within those shots. We also did some greenscreen compositing of basketball players shot on a greenscreen stage. There's a shot where the players notice that their shoes have Flubber on them, and four players land right in the middle of the frame. For that shot, the actors were shot landing on the greenscreen stage."

"In most cases, our software and our artists remove rigs and wires without clean plates anyway."

Ken Littleton

Wire removals have come a long way in the past decade. With constantly developing digital compositing tools, complicated wire removals are becoming commonplace. Rarely, if ever, are clean passes given to the compositors to use to replace the wires or rigs present in the shot. For FLUBBER, no clean passes were handed to POP. "Unless there's a huge rig in the shot or if something passes over a very complicated background, we're just given the shot as is, with no clean passes of the shot," Littleton said. "With action shots like the ones we worked on, it can be very expensive and time consuming to make the unit shoot motion control for the purpose of providing a clean plate. In most cases, our software and our artists remove rigs and wires without clean plates anyway, and we've gotten very good at it."

The basketball game wire removals were principally against the roofline--the stadium's ceiling comprised of girders and dark areas of shadow. "One way we would remove those wires," Littleton said, "is an automated procedure, where we would define the wire, create a mask for it, and the software goes through and does an intelligent analysis of the pixels on either side of the mask and fills in that mask with an appropriate pattern. But most of those we did the old fasioned way, just painting them out by hand."

Many other vendors were involved with the 600 shot production to provide other Flubber shots, as well as wire & rig removals and greenscreen composites. The 90's version of FLUBBER updated the classic story with new and elaborate visual effects that convincingly created characters like Weebo, the flying Thunderbird, and, of course, the rambunctious Flubber.

Special Thanks to:
Ellen Pasternack, Michael Moses, Mary Reardon and Bob Munroe

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All text Copyright © 1998 Todd Vaziri, unless otherwise noted