FX Review

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The action outside gets grim as the ship tilts to 30 degrees, funnel cables snap into the water, causing boats to flip over. The cable snaps are probably one of the most noticeable effects shots in the film, with the animated wires looking out of place, and moving with little or no motion blur. Exceptionally cool is the over the shoulder shot of Hockley looking at the forward funnel collapsing into the water. The miniature

The 1/6 scale model Titanic was shot in water at high speed to realistically integrate the ship with the sea. Computer generated passengers flee on deck. [Digital Domain, both shots]
funnel, one of numerous Pennington models, was shot by 4-Ward, and really holds up well. As it splashes into the water, uncharacteristic water elements appear in a lower frame rate than 24fps in the composite.

As the ship's generator gives out and the Titanic's lights go dark, nearly every shot afterwards is some kind of composite, be it starfield and horizon additions, or Digital Domain set extensions, or flat out miniature ship/digital water/digital stuntmen shots.

The ship buckles under the pressure and splits midway between the third and fourth funnel. The 1/6 scale miniature was photographed interacting with water for many of these final shots, which turned out to be a very good idea, since digital water elements or 100% composited splash elements would have not worked as well. Even with the frenetic movement of the two halves of the ship splitting in half, digital stuntpeople seem to actually exist within the miniature's space.

Every Man For Himself
Freaked out passengers begin to jump off the ship, taking hundred foot falls into the freezing water, or taking longer trips down by bouncing off of railings. There are several memorable shots involving the digital stuntmen--two particularly terrific DD shots are taken from water level, with the camera bouncing up and down with the water. As a poor soul jumps from hundreds of feet in the air, the camera tilts down to follow him--and to mimic real-life photography of someone falling hundreds of feet, the camera overcompensates and actually tilts down more than necessary even after the person splashes in the water, then bounces back up to water level. These shots that mimic real photographic tendencies are the best of the bunch. And I don't think anyone will ever forget the shot of the soul who jumped off the stern, only to hit a propeller and flip over and over before splashing into the water. While the man flips over and over, his clothes realistically swing around him in the stunning shot.

One of DD's complicated propeller shots, involving miniatures, digital and practical water, and greenscreen shot foreground elements.
While the handheld shots at water level work the best, there are a couple of shots of the props rising out of the water whose compositions are too good to be true. No less than two very similar shots of the ship's propellers rising out of the water have the camera perfectly perpendicular to the back of the ship, with the three props filling the screen in symmetry. The shots, which feature rescue boats and swimming people in the foreground, are also locked down. Put these elements together, and the spontaneity of the sequence is lost. While many of the water elements dripping off the ship and streaming down the hull look very realistic and properly scaled, a few streams of goofy, strobing globs of water fall straight off the props.

There are plenty of DD's lifeboat POV shots that are incredible, one in particular is a rack focus from the sinking ship to Bruce Ismay, sitting in a lifeboat protected from the tragedy. The best shots are those whose camera is not locked down, giving the footage a documentary-style feel. The constant presence of swimming people and

One of DD's set extension shots. A greenscreen was placed near the bottom of the vertical poop deck set, which was digitally removed and replaced with the ship sinking into the sea.
people panicking on the decks of the ship not only reminds the viewer of the scale of the situation, but also gives the shots an added dose of reality--previous maritime disaster films relegate their shots to miniatures interacting with real water elements, usually overcranked to compensate, with no human beings to be found on deck.

As the stern dives into the ocean, DD's digital stunts abound, countless wire removals were made, and set extensions and composited water elements were all used to give the scene a great deal of believability and depth. When the ship finally goes into the sea, with Jack and Rose clutching its railings, the gurgling bubbles it leaves on the surface look a little bit out of scale, even with the 1/4 scale miniature of the stern that was used for the ship's final moments. Some frightening underwater composites show the first few moments under the sea for Jack and Rose.

Once Rose reaches the surface, she looks around for Jack, calling his name, as the camera pulls back up and out to reveal hundreds of panicking swimmers. This shot is extraordinary, in that it was pieced together by POP Film using footage of a small

The camera pulls back from a closeup of Rose to reveal hundreds of freezing, panicking people in the water in this complicated POP Film composite.
group of swimmers and cloning them. POP Film also produced a later shot of the rescue boats panning their flashlights over countless hundreds of dead, frozen bodies in the water.

As Rose and Jack give their final goodbyes, countless starfields are composited around them, sometimes with the actors shot against greenscreen, others shot against black. The tightest, closest shots featuring VIFX's composited breath appear here, as both Jack and Rose fill the frame, their breath taking up sometimes half the frame, and still looking realistic.

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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