Special and Visual Effects : Best use of miniatures?

Best use of miniatures?

When miniatures are used well, they are almost undetectable. The Republic studio was blessed with two of the best model-builders in Hollywood: Howard and Theodore Lydecker. The brothers built their miniatures relatively large (1/12 scale) and filmed them outdoors. Many climaxes for Republic serials depended on the spectacular destruction of a Lydecker miniature.
Some of their best work is in the dogfight sequences of "Flying Tigers," where very few scenes used real planes. The wires were painted sky blue. Many Air Corps officers were fooled - that's how good the model work was.
Compare the "Flying Tigers" dogfights to those in "God is My Co-pilot," where the miniatures were not as well-built or well-staged (and the corny dialogue between Dennis Morgan and his Japanese opponent did not help). It's said that Robert Scott, the real-life pilot portrayed by Morgan, was embarrassed by those scenes.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

Republic? I thought I knew my cinema but this post I wouldn't have expected! I thought for a moment you had to be refering to the Star Wars films. Certainly you'll get a lot of nominations from more modern films.

Isn't it a shame though that when the miniatures are done masterfully, only the initiated few appreciate the work, but when they're done 'badly' (and it's not as if it's an easy job), the 'whole world' has a good laugh! Think of the submarines in war movies (water is notorious for not miniaturising well).

If you wanted a nomination for worst miniatures I'd plump for the rover in the cut scenes from the start of the extended version of Aliens. As soon as I set eyes on those shots, I knew why they'd been cut!

Oh, totally off the subject but this reminds me...in Goldeneye (James Bond), there's a shot of a superfast, black train (I think it's the first time it's seen) that looks exactly like a miniature except that when the camera pulls back and pans right, it's revealed to be real. It's not often you see such an unintentional effect.

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Re: Best use of miniatures?

the bridge blow up in true lies still looks good.
the town in dantes peak look great also
the exploding truck in terminator had me fooled right up untill i saw ho wit was done.


aliens has dated a bit but it also has some pretty damm good minature effects. so good in fact that i bet you dont even know youve seen them.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

Im not sure if read your post right, so sorry if i didnt, but the truck flipping over really was done, though i can understand why people would think that it would be minitures.

Some lucky git was in one of the buildings filming it: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=1cq6paj9RIE&NR=1


Also some of the scene on the underground streets does appear to be 'real':
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ElGRw182e4U&feature=related

Re: Best use of miniatures?

Funny you should mention a World War II air combat movie. In the 1969 movie the Battle of Britain, there was some nice model work of the Ju-87 Stuka attack on the radar stations. (There were no flyable, real Stukas.)

Another movie that deserves mention is the miniature work of New York City in Superman II, after all, that wasn't the real NYC that was getting trashed when Superman fought the three Phantom Zone criminals.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

I would say The Lord of the Rings.

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Re: Best use of miniatures?

One of my personal favorite examples is Howard Hawks's "Air Force". The final battle is a fantastic blend of model work, a set footage and stock footage Plus at times I couldn't tell what was stock footage and what was model work.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

I'm not sure about best usage, but some of my favorites:

Metropolis (1927) -- The cars on the overpasses, the planes flying around, and the city skyscrapers among other things.

Svengali (1931) -- there is a 1-2 minute sequence where the camera flies over the rooftops of Paris. It's obviously a miniature, but even so it's a pretty damn cool one, designed by Anton Grot who made some pretty kick-ass expressionist looking sets in the 20s and 30s.

Thief of Bagdad (1940) -- I'm not 100% sure on this one, but I'm pretty sure that the temple sequence was done on a bluescreen with a temple miniature. Some of it was matte painting, but I'm almost certain some of it was a temple miniature. I'll have to rewatch.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

Asides from the afore-mentioned rover shot, and some of-the-time issues that were to do more with compositing than photography, I'd have to say that Aliens has some of the most outstanding, seamless miniature work ever achieved.

My main argument for this would be that for every shot in the film that you peg as a miniature, I guarantee there'll be literally a dozen that you didn't (unless you've pored over the DVD special features like me).

Re: Best use of miniatures?

I was stunned when i first saw those behind the scenes of Blade Runner in the new dvd and they told about all those buildings, specially the Tyrrell building and the opening pan. We must remember too Logan's Run, some stuff where WAY out of scale but still fun to look at.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

Brazil.
Most of the scenes with Sam flying through the sky are done with miniatures. When watching the 30 min documentary on the DVD, it's easy to see how fake it is, but in the film, combined with the clouds, it looks damn good.

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Re: Best use of miniatures?

Dunno if it's been mentioned (too tired to check) but the Hades Landscape, the opening scenes of the polluted city, from Blade Runner... Man that's the best use of miniatures/effects/camera trickery ever for that one shot! The lights and the way they laced smoke between each layer to keep it all cinematic is intense. Watching that was the first time i appreciated effects and cinematography as well as direction.

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Re: Best use of miniatures?

The zoo in Batman Returns (1992).

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Re: Best use of miniatures?

The Mothman Prophecies
Terminator 2
Bram Stokers Dracula (1991)


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Re: Best use of miniatures?

Blade Runner. The miniature city looks breathtaking. I don't think I've ever seen any CGI that looks this real.

Re: Best use of miniatures?

For years, I've tried to enjoy watching a movie the first time. But when I rewatch THEN I start picking out F/X. Still, I love B 1950's sci-fi including Bert Gordon movies unless there are distracting awful minis.

"Eye of the Beholder"

Re: Best use of miniatures?

Thirty Minutes over Tokyo.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The Spy Who Loved Me.
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