IN­DUS­TRY IN­SIDER Lorne Peter­son

Lorne Peter­son talks with Hina Pandya about mod­els and their im­por­tance in film and VFX

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

The ILM chief model maker talks cre­at­ing ef­fects for In­di­ana Jones and Ge­orge Lu­cas

Vis­ual ef­fects all started with mod­els – ac­tual mod­els that were welded, crafted, sculpted and some­times ham­mered to­gether and Lorne Peter­son is pos­si­bly the most skilled hav­ing worked on more than 42 movies in his ca­reer, tak­ing scripts and de­vis­ing ways to en­able the story to come to life in the most re­al­is­tic ways pos­si­ble.

Although Lorne be­gan his ca­reer on his knees ap­ply­ing small pieces of tape to the Death Star for Star Wars – A

New Hope, he ex­plains that there are many times in a movie you may not see or even are aware that the skill of the highly ta­lented model shop is in­volved on a shot – it’s that re­al­is­tic. Take for ex­am­ple In­di­ana Jones And The Tem­ple Of Doom, in it is a shot of a small air­plane clip­ping the top of a snowy moun­tain with its land­ing gear – you may not be able to see it but the air­plane is on two wires. The wing­span of the air­plane stretches to just un­der a me­tre and it weighs very lit­tle.

If the wheel ac­tu­ally did hit the snow it would jig­gle and ruin the shot and “look od­dball”, says Peter­son, and ex­plains that a so­lu­tion needed to be found to en­able the clip­ping in the snow.

Sketch­ing out the so­lu­tions to share with fel­low cre­ators, he came up with a bal­loon il­lus­trated very clearly in the draw­ing. “There’s an es­cape shoot and an ar­row down, so if the bal­loon just blew up it would blow the snow and look like an ex­plo­sion hap­pened,” he ex­plains, but that’s not what the shot re­quired, “the wheel barely hits so we needed just a lit­tle puff of snow.”

In or­der to get the puff of snow the ma­jor­ity of air, the sim­ple draw­ing be­lies a mini com­plex chain re­ac­tion; when the bal­loon pops be­cause a sewing nee­dle is at­tached to the wheel, the nee­dle goes into the snow.

“It pierces the bal­loon and the ma­jor­ity of puff of the bal­loon pres­sure re­leased goes down a lit­tle but goes up which is the way it’s sup­posed to work,” so the air­plane wheel ac­tu­ally goes through a puff of light snow but with­out ac­tu­ally hit­ting the snow be­cause it punc­tures the bal­loon ever so slightly a frac­tion of a sec­ond be­fore the wheel hits – pre­vent­ing the aw­ful jig­gle.

As Peter­son af­firms, “You’re do­ing the shot, it is a lovely aero­plane, but that’s not the ob­ject, the ob­ject is to get a good shot and make it work right.” It’s one of the things a model maker does, he says, not sim­ply sit­ting at a desk, hand­ing over the model, it’s ac­tu­ally a whole process, plan­ning for ev­ery even­tu­al­ity.

In ev­ery movie Lorne has ever worked on the prepa­ra­tion is para­mount to cost, tim­ing and crew, “No-one ever sits there and claps and says ‘wow that was a bril­liant idea!’ if things go wrong that would be a big deal, if things go right every­body goes onto the next shot.”

It is far more likely that the films out there have much more go­ing on than just CG.

JOB TI­TLE Chief model maker Lo­ca­tion San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­niaWeb­siteIlm.comBi­og­ra­phy Lorne Peter­son is an Os­car and BAFTA award-win­ning model maker. Start­ing in vis­ual ef­fects on the first Star Wars movies in 1975 he was piv­otal in the growth and de­vel­op­ment of ILM Model Shop, and has pi­o­neered many pro­cesses to en­able the best vis­ual ef­fects to ap­pear on our screens for more than four decades. Port­fo­lio high­lights• Star Wars: Episode IV – ANew Hope, 1977• Star Wars: Episode V – TheEm­pire Strikes Back, 1980• Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1980 • Star Wars: Episode VI– Re­turn Of The Jedi, 1983• Ju­manji, 1995• Men In Black, 1997• Star Wars: Episode I – ThePhan­tom Men­ace, 1999• Star Wars: Episode II – At­tackOf The Clones, 2002• Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble III – 2006 • Pi­rates Of The Caribbean: AtWorld’s End, 2007

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