The Black Pirate
"The Black Pirate is a 1926 silent adventure film shot entirely in two-color Technicolor about an adventurer and a "company" of pirates. It stars Douglas Fairbanks, Donald Crisp, Sam De Grasse, and Billie Dove."
"The Black Pirate was the third feature to be filmed in an early two-tone Technicolor process that had been first introduced in the 1922 feature Toll of the Sea. This reproduces a limited but pleasing range of colors. Ben-Hur— filmed around the same time — contains two-tone sequences but is shot primarily in black-and-white with tinting and toning in many scenes.
Fairbanks spent considerable money on color tests before making Pirate. Two-tone Technicolor at that time required two strips of 35mm film to be fused together back-to-back to create the two-tone palette. Due to the heat of the projector, there would be so-called cupping of the film, making it difficult to keep the film in focus during projection. (Technicolor later perfected its process, so that two-color films required only a single strip of film.)"
"Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance maintains that “The Black Pirate was the most carefully prepared and controlled work of Fairbanks’s entire career” and “the most important feature-length silent film designed entirely for color cinematography.” Vance believes the limitations imposed by early Technicolor forced him to remove the "pageantry and visual effects" of his earlier swashbuckler and produce a straightforward action adventure. "The result was a refreshing return to form and a dazzling new showcase for the actor-producer’s favorite production value: himself. Fairbanks is resplendent as the bold buccaneer and buoyed by a production brimming with rip-roaring adventure and spiced with exceptional stunts and swordplay, including the celebrated ‘sliding down the sails’ sequence, arguably the most famous set piece of the entire Fairbanks treasure chest.”
Early special effect sequence from the film "The Black Pirate" below. Please note how the swimming sequence can be adapted to flight. Notice too, how airplane models could easily be substituted for the human swimmers.
Various techniques for making people (and objects) appear to fly. By combining these techniques, with editing, the film maker can create very believable sequences.
Flying with the use of a harness and wires below:
Harness and green screen special effects from the film "The Man of Steel", below:
The pioneer Zoran Perisic and the making of Superman: The Movie. "You will believe a man can fly", below:
"Front projection was chosen as the main method for shooting Christopher Reeve's flying scenes in Superman. However, they still faced the problem of having Reeve actually fly in front of the camera. Effects wizard Zoran Perisic patented a new refinement to front projection that involved placing a zoom lens on both the movie camera and the projector. These zoom lenses are synchronized to zoom in and out simultaneously in the same direction. As the projection lens zooms in, it projects a smaller image on the screen; the camera lens zooms in at the same time, and to the same degree, so that the projected image (the background plate) appears unchanged, as seen through the camera. However the subject placed in front of the front projection screen appears to have moved closer to the camera; thus Superman flies towards the camera. Perisic called this technique "Zoptic". The process was also used in two of the Superman sequels (but not used in the fourth movie due to budget constraints), Return to Oz, Radio Flyer, High Road to China, Deal of the Century, Megaforce, Thief of Baghdad, Greatest American Hero (TV), as well as Perisic's films as director, Sky Bandits (also known as Gunbus) and The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet."
Special effects scene from the film The Big Lebowski below:
"Introvision is a front projection composite photography system using a pair of perpendicular reflex screens to combine two projected scenes with a scene staged live before the camera in a single shot. It utilizes a camera, two projectors, and three half-silver mirrors/beam-splitters. It allows foreground, midground and background elements to be combined in-camera: such as sandwiching stage action (such as actors) between two projected elements, foreground and background."
"Introvision was first used in 1980-81 during the filming of the science-fiction movie Outland to combine star Sean Connery and other performers with models of the Io mining colony. It was also used in the telefilm Inside the Third Reich to place actors portraying Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer in the long-destroyed Reichstag, as well as Under Siege, Army of Darkness and The Fugitive, where it seemed to place Harrison Ford on top of a bus that was then rammed by a train. Adventures in Babysitting employed IntroVision to place children in multiple situations of peril such as hanging from the rafters and scaling the "Smurfit-Stone Building" in Chicago, and Stand By Me used IntroVision during the train sequence. Most movie companies brought small units to the Introvision sound stages near Poinsettia and Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Scenes were often shot near the end of the production schedule to allow for the shooting of "live" plates to have been done while on location."
Front projection versus other techniques
"Compared to back projection, the front projection process used less studio space, and generally produced sharper and more saturated images, as the background plate was not being viewed through a projection screen. The process also had several advantages over bluescreen matte photography, which could suffer from clipping, mismatched mattes, film shrinkage, black or blue haloing, garbage matte artifacts, and image degradation/excessive grain. It could be less time consuming — and therefore less expensive — than the process of optically separating and combining the background and foreground images using an optical printer. It also allowed the director and/or director of photography to view the combined sequence live, allowing for such effects to be filmed more like a regular sequence, and the performers could be specifically directed to time their actions to action or movement on the projected images."
"However, advancements in digital compositing and the increasing use of digital cameras have made digital the most common method of choice. The last major blockbuster to extensively use front projection was the Sylvester Stallone action thriller Cliffhanger from 1993.More recently, the film Oblivion - starring Tom Cruise - made extensive use of front projection (though not retro-reflective) to display various sky backgrounds in the home set. The advantages for the in-camera effect were a reduced need for digital effects and green screen, interactive lighting in a reflective set, and to provide a real background for the actors."
NASA Skylab footage below:
"Motion control photography is a technique used in still and motion photography that enables precise control of, and optionally also allows repetition of, camera movements. It can be used to facilitate special effects photography. The process can involve filming several elements using the same camera motion, and then compositing the elements into a single image. Other effects are often used along with motion control, such as chroma key to aid the compositing. Motion control camera rigs are also used in still photography with or without compositing; for example in long exposures of moving vehicles. Today's computer technology allows the programmed camera movement to be processed, such as having the move scaled up or down for different sized elements. Common applications of this process include shooting with miniatures, either to composite several miniatures or to composite miniatures with full-scale elements.
The process is also commonly used when duplication of an element which cannot be physically duplicated is required; motion control is the primary method of featuring multiple instances of the same actor in a shot that involves camera movement. For this technique, the camera typically films exactly the same motion in exactly the same location while the actor performs different parts. A blank take (with no actor in the shot) is sometimes also taken to give compositors a reference of what parts of the shot are different in each take. This, in common film-making language, is also known as shooting a "plate".
In today's film, the reference take is also useful for digital manipulation of the shots, or for adding digital elements. A simple duplication shot confines each "copy" of an element to one part of the screen. It is far more difficult to composite the shots when the duplicate elements cross paths, though digital technology has made this easier to achieve. Several basic camera tricks are sometimes utilized with this technique, such as having the hand of a body double enter a shot to interact with the actor while the duplicate's arm is to be off-screen. For the sake of compositing, the background elements of the scene must remain identical between takes, requiring anything movable to be locked down; the blank reference take can aid in resolving any discrepancies between the other shots.
Similar technology in modern film allows for a camera to record its exact motion during a shot so that the motion can be duplicated by a computer in the creation of computer generated elements for the same shot."
"Model making for scenery has long been used in the film industry, but when a model is too small it often loses its illusion and becomes "obviously a model". Solving this by building a larger model introduces a dilemma: larger models are more difficult to build and often too fragile to move smoothly. The solution is to move the camera, rather than the model, and the advent of compact lightweight 35mm cameras has made machine-controlled motion control feasible. Motion-control also requires control over other photographic elements, such as frame rates, focus, and shutter speeds. By changing the frame rates and the depth of field, models can seem to be much larger than they actually are, and the speed of the camera motion can be increased or decreased accordingly.
Early attempts at motion control came about when John Whitney pioneered several motion techniques using old anti-aircraft analog computers (Kerrison Predictor) connected to servos to control the motion of lights and lit targets. The 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey pioneered motion control in two respects. The film's model photography was conducted with large mechanical rigs that enabled precise and repeatable camera and model motion. The film's finale was created with mechanically controlled slit-scan photography, which required precise camera motion control during the exposure of single frames. The first large-scale application of motion control was in Star Wars (1977), where a digitally controlled camera known as the Dykstraflex performed complex and repeatable motions around stationary spaceship models. This enabled a greater complexity in the spaceship-battle sequences, as separately filmed elements (spaceships, backgrounds, etc.) could be better coordinated with one another with greatly reduced error.
In the UK The Moving Picture Company had the first practical motion control rig. Designed and built in-house, it used the IMC operating system to control its various axis of movement. Peter Truckel operated it for several years before leaving to pursue a career as a successful commercials director.
The simultaneous increase in power and affordability of computer-generated imagery in the 21st century, and the ability for CGI specialists to duplicate even hand-held camera motion (see Match moving), initially made the use of motion control photography less common. However film producers and directors have come to realise the cost-saving benefit of using motion control to achieve the effects in a reliable and realistic way. CGI still struggles to be 100% photorealistic, and the time and cost to achieve photo-realistic shots far exceeds the cost of shooting the live action itself.
With the resurgence of 3D as a medium motion control has also an important role to play, especially in the production of 3D background plates on scaled-sets. Using high resolution still cameras, backgrounds can be easily shot for further use with live action and CGI character animation."
Superman: You Will Believe A Man Can Fly
"Chris and Margot are on a front projection rig, and the camera is over their shoulder. The screen is in front of them, and we’re projecting the Statue of Liberty that we had shot from a helicopter, but with live action of them in the foreground. Shots like this were thanks to an interesting gentleman named Zoran Perisic: he came up with a front projection unit that weighed only 35 pounds, when the only ones around were 2,000-pound units! It had a zoom on the camera, and a zoom on the projector, and they were tied together so you could move past people, zoom in and out, and roll the projector around."
The film the Black Pirate below: