Liesl Bradner has interviewed many of the masters of Hollywood effects in our Wizards of Hollywood section of Hero Complex and today takes a look at a particular moment during “2012” in this installment of Scene Stealer.
The disaster film “2012” reunites director Roland Emmerich and visual effects supervisor Volker Engel, who first worked together 13 years ago on another end-of-the-world movie, “Independence Day.” How apocalyptic times have changed. The key destruction scenes in that earlier film consisted of 90% miniatures, a common practice when things need to be blown up, leaving only 10% of the elements to be computer-generated.
By comparison, nearly half of “2012” is visual effects. Because of the complexity of the destruction scenes it was impossible to use miniatures.
“The limo-in-earthquake was the most challenging scene, as it could not be shot at all but had to be completely created in the computer with inserts of the actors reacting to the mayhem,” said Engel from Berlin, where he is collaborating with Emmerich on “Anonymous,” a quiet Shakespearean drama.
Except for a few shots of a real limo filmed against a blue screen, the five-second crane shot in a residential neighborhood was completely virtual. The bird’s-eye view of the neighborhood buckling with every crumbling house, swaying palm tree, fence, car, sidewalk, garbage can and the limousine were all computer-generated because each one of those elements had to be simulated to shake, break or tumble.
— Liesl Bradner
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