Miniatures & Motion Control
The ship has finally arrived! Soon we will disappear into outer space until the movie is complete. Before this happens, however, we thought we would share some amazing news, and a few technical details about our upcoming miniature shoot.
We've been very fortunate to receive sponsoring from DitoGear, a company specializing in high-quality motion control equipment for timelapse photographers and indie filmmakers.
The sponsorship comes in the form of the 6-foot-long "OmniSlider," a linear motion control rig. Although these rigs are typically used for timelapse and stop-motion, after researching all the options we realized it was an ideal tool for miniature photography.
The main advantages of this system are pretty technical, so we'll try and keep it simple. Two important tricks to making a miniature look big are getting the camera up close and keeping everything in focus, which requires a wide lens and lots and lots of light. With the DitoGear, we're able to shoot each frame of the shot as a still image and thus extend the exposure time to get enough light into the lens. This allows us to use very controlled lighting, keep the entire ship in focus, and as an added perk each frame has poster-sized resolution (they look very pretty). But it also means a 10 second shot can easily take a half-hour or more of filming time per take, which adds up fast.
One problem with this method is getting the correct amount of motion blur so it looks like the ship was shot at 24 frames per second. DitoGear solves this by providing a Continuous Movement mode and a between-shots time interval setting, which allows us to mimic the shutter speed of a normal motion camera. This means our miniature footage will have the same realistic sense of movement as our live-action shots.
Another advantage is that the programmed camera motion is all completely repeatable. This way we can film multiple passes of the same object, allowing for multiple exposures that can be layered together for detailed lighting effects, or creating black-and-white traveling mattes for moving foreground objects. We tested out this old-fashioned compositing technique with a slowly drifting planetscape shot of Jupiter and its moon Europa.
This is exactly how many key shots were filmed in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other classics from the golden age of science fiction moviemaking. Until recently, this kind of specialized technology was available only for big budget Hollywood productions, but DitoGear has brought high-quality motion control photography within the reach of indie filmmakers.
So far we're delighted with how the OmniSlider handles, it's super easy and intuitive to use while providing all the more complex functions we could ask for. The tests have come out great and we can't wait to show you the results of all our hard work.
That's it for now until we announce the release date! Also for those interested in the more technical side of things, we'll be writing a lot more about our special effects and photographic techniques after the release.