One of the more challenging sets on this film was The Sub-Orbital Bomber, which was a very large flying-wing type of aircraft that manifested itself in stage form as a huge gimbaled cockpit set. The set itself was 20 feet tall and placed on a huge gimbal that was 14 feet tall. All lighting and camera needed to be independent of the gimbal (such as camera cranes and sun sources) so that the movement of the set could be registered. In this case, we had the rear wall of the set built to be removable so that we could build our 50 foot TechnoCrane onto a 24-foot rostrum, then float the camera over the moving floor. The set was so large that the 50-foot Techno did not give us a reach into the full depth of the set… only about three quarters of the way in fact… and we made up the rest by coming in through the front glass, or riding-out the gimbal action with smaller jib-arms that still gave a dynamic movement, that related to the set activity. This was a very beautiful set, designed by Rick Heinrichs, that let light in from a single large source in the front. Rick used a metal finish that was reflective and most of the set was rendered in this reflected light value, or high altitude direct setting-sunlight created with a gelled 100K SoftSun. I proposed setting the Bomber Flight at sunset, which gave us a light angle that made moving sun effects more visible and allowed us to create a color contrast.
I had the idea of playing the changing light on Chris’s face as though the Suborbital Bomber was flying amongst clouds. This hopefully would have conveyed some sort of feeling of speed, which is good considering we could see no windows looking back into a set that was the size of a flying small ballroom. My general rule of thumb for any process flying sequence is to unlock anything and everything… all axis on the camera, all lights and any camera mountings. Therefore, we had a moving sun, moving clouds, a camera that could move in, out, left, right and up & down. Never locking pan or tilt so that it was free to float independent of anything else.
Instead of a greenscreen out front, we were able to use a white source that would bring cooler reflection into the set… and VFX agreed to make their mattes using luminance keys with roto instead of a color key. This set was a real ankle turner. Steel grates and steep steps and drop-offs, as well as built-in VariLites located in wells for some of our light effects. We were all no stranger to an ice-pack at the end of the day (and a cold beer)