Monday, October 8, 2012

When theory meets practice, practice wins

Shooting is when theory collides with practice. I can spend hours and weeks getting all the little details right with my models and my costume, but when I've got a limited time window, and a limited supply of Silly String, to get my three shots, all of my clever plans run up against the cold, hard wall of physics. For miniature photography, I had fixed lighting options, a limited depth of field, support rods that bobbled around more than I expected, and support structures that didn't quite get out of the shot the way I expected them to.

But, thanks to my technical support crew (Kendra and my friend Kat), I got my three shots.

The first was relatively simple: the Star Destroyer moves ominously toward the camera, chasing the Falcon. I opted to hold the two ships steady and move the camera, which required a makeshift dolly:

Three Matchbox trucks did the job, though they refused to go perfectly straight, and the Falcon never was in focus. But it's a one-second shot that may not even make the final cut.

Shot two was the background for the composite cockpit shot. It was my job to make the cockpit "shake" at the right moment, by pivoting it on a clothespin stuck into half a music stand. Kendra slid the asteroids closer to the cockpit, to give the illusion of flying through space, while Kat fired Silly String "lasers" across the bow. The asteroids bobbled all over the place, especially when the Silly String hit the support rods, and weren't in focus anyway. But I got the shot. (God only knows what it will look like when it's composited with the green screen.)

For the "pursuit" shot, in which the Star Destroyer chases the Mini-llennium Falcon for about five seconds, I had Kendra rotate the office chair the Star Destroyer was mounted to, to simulate linear motion with rotational motion, while I manipulated the Falcon at the end of a support rod. Kat lay on her back with a can of Silly String hidden by a fold of backdrop fabric and fired "laser blasts" at the Falcon. The three napkin asteroids held still in the foreground.

(That's Kat standing in for me for the production still.) We shot takes until the Silly String ran out, Kendra slowly and smoothly swivelling the chair while I puppeteered the eensy-weensy Falcon.

A couple of pre-production tasks remained before I could turn my mind to principal photography. I did some weathering on Boba Fett's chest armor, to make it match the helmet:

That's a bit of metallic silver paint pen, a bit of Sharpie. Then I finally sorted out IG-88's sensor lights, duct-taping the inside of his dome for opacity and rigging up a little duct tape loop to hold the bike light:

I spent Saturday evening setting up the Millennium Falcon cockpit set in my bedroom alcove and prepping my living room for the Star Destroyer shots. Then a horde of actors descended on my house on Sunday...about which there will be more anon.

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