Juan Carlos Oganes' film-making and work blog.

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.