Adventures in VFX: Check Your Perspective

We were tapped by the Whatcom Museum to create a film about their upcoming 'Vanishing Ice' exhibit – which is a collection of masters like Ansel Adams and their study of ice through art. With global warming a hot topic, this exhibit is one of the most important to land in the PNW in a while – and had some real interesting challenges. 

One of the ideas for a scene we had involved manufacturing a 6' X 6' block of ice with a painting frozen in the middle. When we proposed this to a few ice vendors, one of the first questions they asked was pretty obvious: Do you have any idea how much this would weigh? Much less cost?  


So we had to resort to a little bit of movie magic. Working with the esteemed Langley West, we devised an old school forced perspective shot. Here's our block of ice, made from Crystal Clear Resin from Smooth On. The dimensions are 9 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches. Pretty small for a huge block of ice slated to appear on camera. 


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After numerous camera tests in-studio, we came up with roughly the following diagram on how to pull this off in the back of a 5 ton truck (Van Gogh, I am not):


Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 12.53.05 PM


Here's a still of the block of ice on set:


Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.01.34 PM


Here's a still of the live shot: The goal is to make it look like the actor, after opening a mysterious crate, is standing next to the huge block of ice. Here's the outcome: 


Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 5.17.15 PM

Here's the film – with the special effects shot flying by at :48. 



This simple bit of movie magic is almost 100 years old  – and is used all the time in movies today (see 'Lord of the Rings).  Which asks us all to reconsider what we know, what we see, and what we determine to be 'truth'. The theory of relativity abounds. 

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Author: Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson is Executive Producer at HCFmedia. Can film making change the world? The Short Answer: Yes.