Phantom 2013

Thanks to a reader Bruce for directing me to this title.

AsĀ  Bruce pointed out in his comment, the underwater submarine effects in this film are wholly depicted by computer graphics, however there are a couple of surfacing shots that are done with a miniature in a tank.

Fantasy Film Effects are credited with the tank work and they had a tank in Sun Valley California which was subsequently closed in 2014.

There is also a newspaper article written by Mathew Lickona, concerning the technical advisor on the film who also wrote the book on which the film is based which makes interesting reading. The full article can be read at the link below but I have included part of the article which talks about the model details below;

San Diego Reader
Interview with Phantom technical advisor Kenneth Sewell

By Matthew Lickona, February 27, 2013

ML: Your expertise is submarine stuff, though, right?

KS: When it turned out the special effects were going to be a little too pricey, I built a 23-foot model of the sub in my garage in Ohio and brought it to Burbank. I got the plans for the Foxtrot sub, and I built it to scale. They said, “Can you just build a 10-foot model?” but I said, “No. You can’t make a water droplet any smaller than it is, and you can’t make a wake any smaller than it is. All you can do [to keep scale] is make the model bigger.” It’s what you see on the poster. It cost just $23,000 to build and ship over, which meant we had a lot more money to spend on special effects. I wanted to build a 50-foot sub that you could put a man in and put it in the ocean. But directors like to shoot in tanks – conditions where they can control everything. I was going to build a November-class sub, too, but time was against us.

ML: All in your garage?

KS: It’s got a wood keel made with 2x6s. I cut the ribs from three-quarter-inch plywood. Then we took 5 mil plywood and cut strips for the hull. We laid them laterally, so they looked like plates. I sat down and watched every submarine movie before I built the thing, and every model that they use looks like it’s brand new, like the first sub I was on when I was in the Navy. But if you look at the hull of the sub in the Maritime Museum, it looks like crap. The pressure of the water bends the plates – they’re made to bend. We laid the plywood, filled in the gaps with wood putty, then wrapped wire around the sub to mimic the appearance of the ribs [between the plates]. Then I coated it with fiberglass, like you put on a boat. Finally, we textured the hull and painted it. My son helped me; he’s an artist, too.

ML: So much for the exterior.

KS: Inside, I put trolling motors in with extended shafts for the propellers. And I had ballast tanks with valves. We had remote controls to open the valve so the sub would sink, and then to close the valve and blow air so that the sub would rise. I drove it two-and-a-half days from Ohio to Burbank, the Fantasy II Film Effects studio. The place was like a Hollywood junkyard. There was a million-gallon pool in the back, and a big warehouse with all these props from the movies lying around. They had a couple of wooden shelves in this old, ratty office, on them were two Oscars, an Emmy, and three Saturns. They’re covered with dust, and the guys says, “My grandpa won this Oscar for The Time Machine, and my dad won that Oscar for The Terminator.” I’m in a corner of the shop putting things together, and there’s this Terminator-bot. It’s ten feet tall in the movie, but it was really just four feet tall, and it was just sitting there.

ML: So you built the sub.

KS: I also built two half-scale torpedoes torpedoes with motors. And I’ve been a diver since ’65, so I worked in the pool to catch them after they got launched. There would be this fog of water, and all of a sudden this thing would be coming at me. We’d catch it and it would force us back six feet, and we’d stop it. It was spooky; I never got used to it. We also had to build torpedoes from cardboard for the torpedo room. When we got down here, we found the sub had only one torpedo! So I sketched one and called my son. We put a prop on it from one of the old boats in the museum, and we decided to leave them in the tubes after shooting was done.

ML: Is there anything you didn’t do?

KS: I got the nickname “The Dos Equis Man” during the shooting. I was working with the sub, doing the models, helping with directing…But the whole movie industry is nuttier than a fruitcake. Think about this: you want to buy a car from me. I say, “Fine,” and I build a factory, hire people, build one car, give it to you, and then shut everything down. That’s why movies cost what they do.

ML: What was cool about the project?

KS: This was the first submarine film actually shot inside a sub, because digital cameras are small enough now, and because we can manipulate the image in post-production. We brought a lot of attention to detail to the project to get it to where it was really accurate and a little gritty. Usually, the inside looks too clean and well-lit.


(1A PHANTOM Gordon) A scale model of a Soviet submarine, that Gahanna resident Kenneth Sewell built in his garage, arrives in California for use in filming the Cold War submarine drama, “Phantom.” Sewell, an author and submarine veteran, was a technical consultant for the movie. Credit: Alex Dallas


From watching the movie I got the impression that all the torpedo shots were CG so whatever footage was shot with miniature torpedoes didn’t look like it made it into the movie. Even the miniature submarine shots are pretty minimal for what appears to be a decent sized model. Fantasy II Film effects are very experienced at miniature photography and particularly with water effects. I can only imagine there must have been some budgetary issues involved or the production had a preference for CG over miniatures.



The Sino Japanese War At Sea 1894 – 2012

aka – Jia Wu Da Hai Zhan

This Chinese film holds the distinction of being the most recent example of model ships in the cinema, being made in 2011 and screened in 2012.

According to Wikipedia the naval battle scenes were filmed on a fresh water lake in Inner Mongolia. It must be large enough that you can’t see the land on other side as the horizon in the shots look convincingly at sea. The special effects are credited to the director’s, (Feng Xiaoning) own special effects studio.

There is a massive amount of miniature work on show here and it is very effectively staged and photographed. The pyrotechnics are also very well done. In execution and indeed the time period represented, it is similar to the work supervised by Derek Meddings for the movie Shout at the Devil. The black smoke from the funnels is extremely convincing and some of the decks are populated with miniature figures. In many shots live actors are composited onto the miniature decks which brings the models to life. There is a man running carrying a shell which appears quite a few times. Occasionally the digital compositing work is a little obvious but the miniature work is uniformly excellent.

I would very much like to find out more about the shooting of the miniatures and particularly to see some behind the scenes photos of the shooting. I suspect the models are quite large. Special features are unlikely to surface as unfortunately Chinese film producers rarely if ever release DVDs as they simply cannot compete with the pirates.

The whole movie can be found on YouTube, of course it is all in Chinese.

There is also the first 24 minutes at 1080p that contains a decent sample of the miniature work on offer from about 14.00.

Thanks due to readers Andy Hall, Joe Rosendo and also Roger Todd for flagging this title.

sino_japanese_war.0002 sino_japanese_war.0003 sino_japanese_war.0004 sino_japanese_war.0005 sino_japanese_war.0006 sino_japanese_war.0007 sino_japanese_war.0008 sino_japanese_war.0009 sino_japanese_war.0010 sino_japanese_war.0011 sino_japanese_war.0012 sino_japanese_war.0013 sino_japanese_war.0014 sino_japanese_war.0015 sino_japanese_war.0016 sino_japanese_war.0017 sino_japanese_war.0018 sino_japanese_war.0019 sino_japanese_war.0020 sino_japanese_war.0021 sino_japanese_war.0022 sino_japanese_war.0023 sino_japanese_war.0024 sino_japanese_war.0025 sino_japanese_war.0026 sino_japanese_war.0027 sino_japanese_war.0028 sino_japanese_war.0029 sino_japanese_war.0030 sino_japanese_war.0031 sino_japanese_war.0032 sino_japanese_war.0033 sino_japanese_war.0034 sino_japanese_war.0035 sino_japanese_war.0037 sino_japanese_war.0038 sino_japanese_war.0039 sino_japanese_war.0040 sino_japanese_war.0041 sino_japanese_war.0042 sino_japanese_war.0043 sino_japanese_war.0044 sino_japanese_war.0045 sino_japanese_war.0046 sino_japanese_war.0047 sino_japanese_war.0048 sino_japanese_war.0049 sino_japanese_war.0050 sino_japanese_war.0051 sino_japanese_war.0052 sino_japanese_war.0053 sino_japanese_war.0054 sino_japanese_war.0055 sino_japanese_war.0056 sino_japanese_war.0057 sino_japanese_war.0058 sino_japanese_war.0059 sino_japanese_war.0060 sino_japanese_war.0061 sino_japanese_war.0062 sino_japanese_war.0063 sino_japanese_war.0064 sino_japanese_war.0065 sino_japanese_war.0066 sino_japanese_war.0067 sino_japanese_war.0068 sino_japanese_war.0069 sino_japanese_war.0070 sino_japanese_war.0071 sino_japanese_war.0072 sino_japanese_war.0073 sino_japanese_war.0074 sino_japanese_war.0075 sino_japanese_war.0076 sino_japanese_war.0077 sino_japanese_war.0078 sino_japanese_war.0079 sino_japanese_war.0080 sino_japanese_war.0081 sino_japanese_war.0082 sino_japanese_war.0083 sino_japanese_war.0085 sino_japanese_war.0086 sino_japanese_war.0087 sino_japanese_war.0088 sino_japanese_war.0089 sino_japanese_war.0090 sino_japanese_war.0091 sino_japanese_war.0092 sino_japanese_war.0093 sino_japanese_war.0094 sino_japanese_war.0095 sino_japanese_war.0096 sino_japanese_war.0097 sino_japanese_war.0098 sino_japanese_war.0099 sino_japanese_war.0100 sino_japanese_war.0101 sino_japanese_war.0102 sino_japanese_war.0103 sino_japanese_war.0104 sino_japanese_war.0105 sino_japanese_war.0106 sino_japanese_war.0107 sino_japanese_war.0108 sino_japanese_war.0109 sino_japanese_war.0110 sino_japanese_war.0111 sino_japanese_war.0112 sino_japanese_war.0113 sino_japanese_war.0114 sino_japanese_war.0115 sino_japanese_war.0116 sino_japanese_war.0117 sino_japanese_war.0118 sino_japanese_war.0126 sino_japanese_war.0127 sino_japanese_war.0128 sino_japanese_war.0129 sino_japanese_war.0130 sino_japanese_war.0131 sino_japanese_war.0132 sino_japanese_war.0133 sino_japanese_war.0134 sino_japanese_war.0135 sino_japanese_war.0136 sino_japanese_war.0138 sino_japanese_war.0145 sino_japanese_war.0146 sino_japanese_war.0147 sino_japanese_war.0148 sino_japanese_war.0149 sino_japanese_war.0150 sino_japanese_war.0151 sino_japanese_war.0152 sino_japanese_war.0153 sino_japanese_war.0155 sino_japanese_war.0156 sino_japanese_war.0158 sino_japanese_war.0159 sino_japanese_war.0160 sino_japanese_war.0161 sino_japanese_war.0162 sino_japanese_war.0163 sino_japanese_war.0164 sino_japanese_war.0165 sino_japanese_war.0166 sino_japanese_war.0168 sino_japanese_war.0169 sino_japanese_war.0170 sino_japanese_war.0171 sino_japanese_war.0172 sino_japanese_war.0173 sino_japanese_war.0174 sino_japanese_war.0175 sino_japanese_war.0176 sino_japanese_war.0177 sino_japanese_war.0178 sino_japanese_war.0179 sino_japanese_war.0180 sino_japanese_war.0181 sino_japanese_war.0182 sino_japanese_war.0183 sino_japanese_war.0184 sino_japanese_war.0185 sino_japanese_war.0186 sino_japanese_war.0187 sino_japanese_war.0188 sino_japanese_war.0190 sino_japanese_war.0191 sino_japanese_war.0192 sino_japanese_war.0193 sino_japanese_war.0194 sino_japanese_war.0195 sino_japanese_war.0196 sino_japanese_war.0197 sino_japanese_war.0198 sino_japanese_war.0199 sino_japanese_war.0200 sino_japanese_war.0201 sino_japanese_war.0202 sino_japanese_war.0203 sino_japanese_war.0204 sino_japanese_war.0205 sino_japanese_war.0206 sino_japanese_war.0207 sino_japanese_war.0208 sino_japanese_war.0209 sino_japanese_war.0210 sino_japanese_war.0211 sino_japanese_war.0212 sino_japanese_war.0213 sino_japanese_war.0214 sino_japanese_war.0215 sino_japanese_war.0216 sino_japanese_war.0217 sino_japanese_war.0218 sino_japanese_war.0219 sino_japanese_war.0220 sino_japanese_war.0221 sino_japanese_war.0222 sino_japanese_war.0223 sino_japanese_war.0224 sino_japanese_war.0225 sino_japanese_war.0226 sino_japanese_war.0227 sino_japanese_war.0228 sino_japanese_war.0229 sino_japanese_war.0230 sino_japanese_war.0231 sino_japanese_war.0232 sino_japanese_war.0233 sino_japanese_war.0234 sino_japanese_war.0235 sino_japanese_war.0236 sino_japanese_war.0237 sino_japanese_war.0238 sino_japanese_war.0239 sino_japanese_war.0240 sino_japanese_war.0241 sino_japanese_war.0242 sino_japanese_war.0243 sino_japanese_war.0244 sino_japanese_war.0245 sino_japanese_war.0246 sino_japanese_war.0247 sino_japanese_war.0248 sino_japanese_war.0249 sino_japanese_war.0250 sino_japanese_war.0252 sino_japanese_war.0253 sino_japanese_war.0254 sino_japanese_war.0255 sino_japanese_war.0256 sino_japanese_war.0257 sino_japanese_war.0259 sino_japanese_war.0260 sino_japanese_war.0261 sino_japanese_war.0262 sino_japanese_war.0263 sino_japanese_war.0264 sino_japanese_war.0265 sino_japanese_war.0266 sino_japanese_war.0267 sino_japanese_war.0268 sino_japanese_war.0269 sino_japanese_war.0270 sino_japanese_war.0271 sino_japanese_war.0272 sino_japanese_war.0273 sino_japanese_war.0274 sino_japanese_war.0275 sino_japanese_war.0276 sino_japanese_war.0277 sino_japanese_war.0278 sino_japanese_war.0279 sino_japanese_war.0280 sino_japanese_war.0281 sino_japanese_war.0282 sino_japanese_war.0283 sino_japanese_war.0284 sino_japanese_war.0285 sino_japanese_war.0286 sino_japanese_war.0287 sino_japanese_war.0288 sino_japanese_war.0289 sino_japanese_war.0290 sino_japanese_war.0291 sino_japanese_war.0292 sino_japanese_war.0293 sino_japanese_war.0294 sino_japanese_war.0295 sino_japanese_war.0296 sino_japanese_war.0297 sino_japanese_war.0298 sino_japanese_war.0299 sino_japanese_war.0300 sino_japanese_war.0301 sino_japanese_war.0302 sino_japanese_war.0303 sino_japanese_war.0304 sino_japanese_war.0306 sino_japanese_war.0307 sino_japanese_war.0308 sino_japanese_war.0309 sino_japanese_war.0310 sino_japanese_war.0311 sino_japanese_war.0312 sino_japanese_war.0313 sino_japanese_war.0314 sino_japanese_war.0315 sino_japanese_war.0316 sino_japanese_war.0317 sino_japanese_war.0318 sino_japanese_war.0319 sino_japanese_war.0320 sino_japanese_war.0321 sino_japanese_war.0322 sino_japanese_war.0323 sino_japanese_war.0324 sino_japanese_war.0325 sino_japanese_war.0326 sino_japanese_war.0327 sino_japanese_war.0328 sino_japanese_war.0329