FX Review

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Women And Children First
At this point, Cameron cuts directly between the full scale Titanic set, with the miniature Titanic models for shots of the ship sinking--featured in the sinking shots were the 1/20 scale full ship, a 1/6 scale forecastle, and the 1/8 scale stern section. The latter two models, plus a 1/4 scale stern, were built by Don Pennington, Inc. The 1/8 scale stern was predominately utlilized in the sinking and splitting of the back half of the ship. A number of full scale shots also feature plenty of invisible wire, rig and light removals.

The 1/20 scale ship, along with digital water and starfield, is triumphantly seen in a dazzling DD tilt down from a flare element, showing the extreme bow of the ship slowly decending into the water. Shots that totally look like full scale elements are actually miniatures shot dry with digital water and reflections added by DD.

In this wonderful over the shoulder shot, Smith assesses the damage. The camera dollys, swoops left then right, and it all matches. A flare's light burst illuminates both the Smith and miniature element, further welding the elements together. [Digital Domain]
A seemingly innocent shot of the very front tip of the shot is actually the 1/6 scale miniature sinking into the water, with digital water extensions and CG lifeboats in the background. In another very clean DD composite, Captain Smith takes a look at the sinking forecastle, in a very realistic over the shoulder shot of Smith wearily looking at his ship from the bridge.

The full CG ship makes another cameo in another flare shot. With the camera seemingly hundreds of feet in the air, and the ship tilted about 10 degrees, a signal flare bursts and dies out, leaving a glimmering reflection on the water. This shot is eerie and disturbing, and conveys a great deal to the audience--the shot underlines desperate nature of the situtation, the complete isolation and forebodes the doom of the ship.

ILM contributed some fine, unplanned composites to show the entire full size ship tilted into the water. As the full size set could only be tilted by splitting it in half, two pieces of first unit footage each depicting the halves of the ship were composited by ILM to give the impression of the full ship sinking into the water. These extremely complicated 2D composites are extremely clean and unnoticeable--a remarkable feat, in that the footage was never intended to be spliced together.

Inside the Doomed Ship
Visual effects for TITANIC do not exclusively occur with the camera outside the ship; plenty take place within the ship, as well. A miniature corridor is flooded with

A frame of POP Film's ambitious face replacement shot.
water as the camera pulls backwards at a tremendous rate. ILM was tasked to paint out larger clumps of water, clumps with large specular highlights that would have shown the true scale of the miniature set/water, and to digitally paint in smaller balls of water. The shot was also tilted, with missing pieces of the shot painted by ILM. Quarter scale interiors of first class decks, built and shot by DD, are destroyed as the ship splits in half in a neat series of shots.

In a particularly interesting shot, Jack and Rose run toward the camera, evading a huge blast of water. Because of the danger of the stunt, stuntmen ran through the shot with the blast of water behind them. The actors then ran through the set without the water, and it was up to POP Film to digitally remove DiCaprio and Winslet's faces and paste them onto the stuntmen's face. Early in the shot, strobing and sliding of Winslet's face is clearly noticeable, and her forehead throughout the first half of the shot seems quite expansive. The shot is enormously ambitious due to the light flashes and overcranked camera; defying conventional wisdom, the shot actually gets more convincing as the actors get closer to the camera.

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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