Juan Carlos Oganes' film-making and work blog.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Parrot - Voruz cannons and battleship in the works / New trench location

Early today we all started work: one team went up to the morro again to undo all the sandbags and bring them to the new location while I visited Alejandro's workshop and checked on the battleship miniature building process (well...not so miniature after all for this first one is 1.70 meters long. The next longest one -the Manco Capac- will be 1.90 meters long). So far, so good. The one half-way there as of now is the Cochrane. The chimney, poles and cannons were there and some parts still missing but I can see it coming together fine. The Parrot cannon parts are almost ready to be put together and commissioned for another Voruz 70 lbs one. Will be ready by Easter weekend and ready to be taken to Ancon for assembly. It is a relieve in a way to have another do this new cannons. Back in June/July last year when I was making the Vavasseur, the thrill of seeing it all coming together was such a great feeling, like watching your baby being born, but it takes a lot of precious time that needs to be devoted to other production and administrative tasks. This time I had to delegate the job but I'm glad it's in good hands.

Then we all met at Puente Piedra's desert mountains to check the chosen location. Explaining how the trenches and cannon positions are gonna be. The abandoned trench found was used for some kind of firing practice area and now it's all full with debris, garbage and waste. Some walls need repair in order for them to be almost 90 degress straight. The only problem is that it's kinda deep (a little more than 2 meters while 1 meter is all we need) so some filling and shoveling needs to be done all along the 20 meter long trench. The soil is rocky and full of hard surfaces showing that a few days of hard work are ahead. Seems like Easter isn't gonna be so relaxed after all.

Sandbags and rock filling will be used to make a natural "bed" for the Parrot and Voruz cannons to raise it a meter above ground level, otherwise it won't work.

At the mountain behind it there's a huge logo made with white painted rocks so I need to be careful with camera framing. I'm sure so digital replacement will have to be done to erase it.

Cochrane in the works.

Checking the cannon pillboxes from the other side.
The back of the 150 lb Parrot cannon.

The cannon trench.

Explaining the artillery moves.

The trench walls are fragile so some work needs to be done on them.

I'm glad to have a great team of people.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Music score getting in shape

It's been a few months since I got together with Fernando to check on the music score for the film. Progress on it is quite fine and when he plays it I try to imagine it being played with the full instrumentation and matching certain scenes already filmed and the ones soon to be.

All is coming together. Slowly coming together. Can't wait to have it all fully orchestrated. If all goes fine, it's just a matter of a few months until recording sessions begin. That is going to be quite a thrill. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting things ready for new scenes north of Lima

Having to wait a few more days to start filming is what's happening now. Time is needed for us to build and set up all scenography like pillboxes, ammunition stacking and tents on site in the deserts north of Lima. This time to film other angles of the Este and Ciudadela fortress' attack and its powder/ammo explosion scene together with the Alto del Alianza battle scenes.

These days have been mostly running around checking the locations for proper set up and budgeting building and production costs for all these. Thank God we have places close by for food and shelter. The last thing I want to have is 500 + people feeling so uneasy under the dehydrating sun and dry desert.

Now, so far, these things are on the way:  battlefield props and set up in Ancon / Puente Piedra, 3 big miniature models of the Cochrane, Manco Capac and Covadonga battleships, 150 lb Parrot cannon building and the "Ciudadela" ammo explosion.

Some Alto del Alianza scenes already shot on June last year.
Ancon desert: Landscape just like the Alto del Alianza in Tacna.
We have these two weeks to do most of it and start next month filming sessions.
Seems like enough time but actually we are running pretty fast out of time.

The Gattling gun is very heavy.
Dangerous moves coming down from the Morro Solar.
Getting Krupp cannons into the truck.

Puente Piedra deserts. Here we will set up the fortresses again.
Takes several people to pick up those heavy cannons off the ground and into the truck.

Brave Alejo and Luiss pushing the Gattling gun.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Another idea: A motion control rig

It has gotten into my mind some elaborate filming shots that need special care because of it's complexity behind them.

During the Ancon scenes to be shot for the Alto del Alianza battle, there are a couple shots where thousands of soldiers are shown in one single single pass. I will be having extras in the vicinity of 500. Even though that amount will look huge onscreen, the vast landscape of a few kilometers around will lend itself for massive soldier fights and movements. The Alto del Alianza battle gathered around 20,000 soldiers on both sides but I don't have that many extras. That's where crow duplication comes in handy.

Many scenes where crowd duplication is used on many movies are done with the camera standing locked on the tripod and the extras being filmed many times over but in different places onscreen and blended together in post-production. It works fine though, but sometimes that way of doing it somehow gives away the effect of duplication. If the camera were to be moving, then...it would sell gorgeously right and look even more realistic. That's the type of shot I'd like to do but it has its challenges. Enter the motion control rig.

Was looking at some old Star Wars behind-the-scenes footage done back in the 70's where Lucas and his ILM team were pushing the boundaries of what has been done before and they used much of the first prototypes of motion control rigs operated by computers to mimic and repeat precise camera moves in all angles without any spatial or angular error. You simply "recorded" the move in the computer memory and the camera could repeat the same move as many times as one would want to. Of course, those machines looked like huge refrigerators and used 1970's technology. But it worked perfectly well for all special effect scenes using miniature models and people.

I figured after watching some videos online that being in 2012 now, the technology behind it isn't that new anymore and it has developed. Nowadays motion control rigs are more defined and precise than ever, but still...I think it's doable....and here in Peru.

Being a mechanic arm controlled by electronics, the people behind it should be Mechatronics by profession, so, after some research and doing a few phone calls, went to our much respected UNI (National Engineering University) to look for alumni that study that career and propose the challenge of building one for me. Visited some areas where they gather some bigger equipment that do similar jobs but for more industrial type of work, but the essence is the same and only the use is what differs. Explaining and showing them videos of how I want it to be, what I want it to do and the smoothness it needs in order to get useful footage and be mathematically precise in every repetition was the norm and they seemed to be up for the challenge. The conversation run quite smooth and I guess we understood each other. I know it hasn't been done before here as they said, but it is a task they are willing to work on.

Will take a few weeks to build and test in order to have it in time for those battle scenes.

I'm praying those guys do it right and if it works....it is not only a pioneering step but a quantum leap in pushing the boundaries I though we would be facing to do this film as envisioned.

I'm very thrilled :)

An industrial mechanical arm as inspiration.

Software-run and for bigger jobs. Similar as motion control rigs.

I'd like it to rise about 5 meters (16.4 ft) high.

How a commercial one looks like in the desert.

A commercial one. Perhaps it will look similar to mine.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Battleship miniature models for naval scenes

Today I dropped by Alejandro Rodriguez's miniature and model workshop. Having talked for a while already and checked his work online, needed to have a close-up look at his detail handling and workmanship. I have to say he is quite good.

I'm planning on doing the Manco Capac monitor and Covadonga battle ships in a bigger size than usual (about meter and a half long or more) with all full details of rust, bolts and deck to be placed digitally over already filmed sea footage. Perhaps the Cochrane too.

Alejandro was quite a joy to talk to, very humble, very friendly and with lots of knowledge about his craft and naval history. He has not only the chops but the "know-how" to do the job. Was telling me how much identified he feels with my passion on this film and understands my efforts.

Have worked with other miniature models before and miniature battleship filming is going to be quite the challenge so this is gonna be an interesting ride.
Have to work closely with the footage I already have of the ocean and place it to perfection digitally over real and digitally computer-generated water. The digital composite needs to look as real as possible.

The little Manco Capac monitor. I'm ordering a human-size one.
A meter and half long is needed.

The Huascar monitor model.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ancon battle scenes soon

Getting all ready for the Ancon battle scenes. Being the last large battle scenes to be filmed, pre-production for them is taking a bit longer than usual. Somewhere between 400 to 500 extras plus horses and riders are gonna be used. Seems like I'm going to bring horsemen from another place for I checked on them yesterday and they weren't quite as experienced (and bold) as I want them to be. I understand how much care a horse needs to have but I wish there were riders like the bold ones at Hollywood in the old western movies. Those guys really knew how to make the falls look dangerous and real!

I guess when a film industry actually develops here, a company will appear that provides trained horses and horsemen capable of stunts and dangerous moves.

Like a close friend said: You are pushing the envelope here so far.