A sense of Scale – a DVD documentary review

Berton Pierce has made a movie miniature fan’s dream documentary. It is full of the legendary modelmakers of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s talking about their work on the blockbuster movies of the period. You get from watching the DVD a deep sense of the hand crafted nature of visual effects in those days and it is a joy to watch.  Thoroughly recommended.

SenseOfScale_cover_complete

Below is the trailer for the film.

The DVD can be purchased via this link

http://www.senseofscalefilm.com

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.

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The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya 1942

AKA Hawai Mare Okikaisen

Received an award for visual effects from the Japan Motion Picture Cinematographers Association.

Eiji Tsubaraya was predominantly known in the west for the visual effects of the Japanese giant monster pictures or Kaiju starting with Godzilla in 1954. Not so commonly known , having mostly only been seen in Japan, is his contribution to a series of war pictures. This, one of the earliest, depicts the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as well as a few other Japanese imperial navy victories between 1941 and 1942. Using Naval aerial photographs the effects team built an accurate large expanse of miniature set, outdoors, with buildings, hangars, moving trucks, vehicles and attacking aircraft as well as many American warship models. They then proceeded to destroy the whole lot by blowing it up in shot after shot.

The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malaya 01 The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malaya 02

There is a legend that the American occupying forces took the miniature work for real and in fact they believed Tsubaraya must have been part of a spy network to have access to such accurate information. Compared to real footage of the Pearl Harbor attack it doesn’t really hold up but there are a number of particularly effective shots. The camera is often shooting from the point of view of an aircraft in flight and the motion is really well simulated and quite convincing. Some of the buildings being blown up also fracture and collapse really well. The explosions in the water are less successful as they give away the scale of the ships and water too easily.

The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malaya 03 The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malaya 04 The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malaya 05 The War at Sea From Hawaii to Malaya Pamphlet 01 The War at Sea From Hawaii to Malaya Pamphlet 02

 

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Thanks are due to Roger Todd for alerting me to this film, for his research and providing the visual material for this post.

Source: Eiji Tsubaraya: Master of Monsters by August Ragone published by Chronicle Books.