PT The Official The Phantom Menace Models and Miniatures Thread

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by shanerjedi, Jul 28, 2011.

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  1. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    Here it is folks. This is the thread to discuss and dissect the varied use of models and miniatures throughout Episode One.

    One of the common complaints I hear thrown at the prequels is the overuse of CG. Fair enough. But to make their point, many critics point to shots that actually were miniatures.

    Episode One was full of miniature work. In fact, it used more models and miniatures than the first three Star Wars movies combined.

    This thread will break down and dissect scene by scene the models and miniatures used in the film.

    So let's get started:

    Scene One:

    The Jedi arrival at the blockade:


    The red republic frigate was a scaled model.
    The model team also built a hero(main use) federation command ship that is first revealed here.

    The blockade of several ships was interesting. They shot the model from various angles and then composited those shots into the scene.
    The main use of CG in the scene is the planet of Naboo, but the CG was the sphere that a matte painting was then placed over.
    The starfields were all CG.

    When the ship docks in the hangar bay we see the scaled republic model in a scaled model hangar set. The opposite hangar arm seen outside the bay was a photograph of the federation ship model composited into the shot.
    The droids and droid fighters were CG composited into the hangar model set.

    Naboo as seen out the conference room window was the matte painting of the planet placed over the CG geometry.

    Scene Two:

    Federation Ship Interior and Jedi Escape


    We meet the antagonists on the federation bridge.
    The front facing federation bridge was a scaled model populated with CG droids navigating the ship.
    The bridge behind the Neimoidians was also a scaled set.
    The physical set essentially consisted of the ramp portion the actors are standing on to the bridge blast doors and to the chairs where Tey How and the other Neimoys sit.
    So most of what we see on screen is a miniature set or two pieces extending the small live action set piece.

    The Jedi make their escape from the CG droids and the next model set we encounter is the ventilation shaft-hangar scene. The hangar was a large scale model with some model pieces combined with a CG droid army.
    The other view looking over the jedis shoulders at the army was cg droids with a model hangar shot.

    More forthcoming in the next few days...

    Also if you have any questions about what was a model or what wasn't, feel free to ask as I might be able to answer those. :)
  2. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    No, not fair. Many people and critics have the misconception that blue/green screen = CGI. This is simply not true, thus the unfair complaint.
  3. Adali-Kiri Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2000
    star 4
    I remember discussing CGI versus scale models with other fans back when TPM came out. Many insisted that you could just tell the difference. Too bad for them that they pointed out "obvious CG models" that I could confirm as physical models. Very interesting subject for a thread!
  4. DarthBandersnatch Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 1
    I have friends, and intelligent ones too, and one who is a film student and archivist, who simply will not believe me when I try to tell them that the prequels were NOT all effortlessly farted out by a Mac. They even claim to have seen the Making of the Phantom Menace documentary, in which you can see them physically blow up a model of the Republic Cruiser, and they still refuse to accept it. :confused:
  5. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    When ROTS came out, Time magazine claimed that Tion Medon was a computer-generated character.

    I sent them an e-mail explaining otherwise. So far they haven't responded. :p
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  6. Adali-Kiri Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2000
    star 4
    Goes to show, if you want to see CG, you will. ;)
  7. EHT New Films Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2007
    star 6
    And if you want to malign something (assuming they were in fact bemoaning the overuse of CGI in that article), despite evidence to the contrary, you'll do that too. :p
  8. Adali-Kiri Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2000
    star 4
    I can absolutely understand that people get fed up with overuse of CGI. Personally, I think Lucas messed up by making Dexter Jettster CG and not use the actual actor. But there's so much practical stuff in these films that looks amazing: How about the practical lava effects created for Mustafar? Beautiful combos of practical effects and miniatures, and CG augmentations as well as location plates.
  9. SithStarSlayer Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2003
    star 6
  10. Darth Maul Apprentice Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2014
    star 4
    Farted out by a Mac, lol. That's hilarious dude. But I agree with what you're saying. If people watched the behind the scenes on the DVD/blu or reading the making of books, they'd see the models and miniatures.
  11. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Thanks to SithyStarSlayer for reopening this thread. I'd also like to thank the current PT models, sets, practical effects thread for inspiring me to resume this project. I am going to go scene by scene into the film and break down what was miniatures or practical. I might add what was live action set or CG too but will mostly focus on miniatures to show how extensive they were used for shot after shot in TPM. It's also to show people that what they thought was CG in many cases is a miniature.

    I will pick up where I left off tomorrow with Naboo and the invasion.
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 4, 2014
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  12. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Scene: Naboo Reveal

    The opening aerial shot of the Naboo palace is a beautiful 3D matte painting. However, the waterfalls in the shot were achieved by shooting salt against a black screen.

    The scene cuts to the interior of Theed palace. These shots were done at Caserta Palace in Italy as well as a few insert shots at Leavesden studios.

    Scene: Federation Invasion

    The six landing craft flying towards Naboo were achieved with a hero landing craft model shot motion control and then composited into the shot to increase its number.

    As the landing craft descend into the forest the craft are all the scale models. And the forest below is a combination plate photography of forest and miniature forest.

    The next shot is one of the landing craft in the background(scaled model) and then the shot pans right to a landing craft bay door opening and MTT transports emerging. The landing bay section of the craft was a large scale model and the MTTS were scaled to roll along a track on the model and disembark. The droids emerging from the landing ramp and on the STAPs are CG.

    The following shot of the droid general talking via hologram to the Neimoidians is interesting. The closeup of the droid is CG. The tank he sits in is a larger scaled model. The MTTS knocking trees down in the forest background as they are talking are models knocking down scaled model trees as well as trees shot locally in Marin co. cut down and then composited into the background.

    The next shot is Qui-Gon running through the forest scape. This was a small live-action set extended with a scaled miniature forest with miniature MTTS as they nearly run over Qui-Gon and Jar Jar. Again, foliage falling was combination filmed full-scale trees being downed and scaled miniatures. The creatures were CG.

    The STAP and droid that chase Obi-Wan to Qui-Gon and Jar Jar is CG and the forest background is combination location footage of Whippendell forest near Leavesden and miniature.

    Scene: Otah Gunga

    The Jedi follow Jar Jar underwater to Otah Gunga. This was shot at the water tank at Shepperton studios. The reveal of Otah Gunga is combination miniature and 3D matte. The closeups of the city bubbles were miniature while the extensions and distant ones were CG. The interior of the city square when the heroes arrive and everyone runs off while Capt Tarpals rides up was a miniature. Tarpals and all the creatures were CG.
    The Gungan throne room interior was a miniature. The Jedi were on a tiny live action platform section of a set and composited into the miniature, along with the CG gungans.

    Scene: Planet Core

    The heroes depart the miniature Otah Gunga in a CG Bongo and descend into the core. The core was actually large scale miniatures shot in smoke(to replicate the look of underwater depths. The interior Bongo was a full size set. Jar Jar was CG. The heroes descend in their CG Bongo into a miniature chasm and are pursued by a CG Opee Sea Killer. The Opee Sea Killer swims with its catch in its mouth only to be snatched by a gigantic CG Sando Aqua Monster. The landscape surrounding the Sando is all miniature. Te CG Bongo continues on its way.

    Scene: Invasion on schedule

    We next catch up to the federation command ship. The hero model is revealed again. Cut to interior where Gunray converses with Sidious via CG hologram. The background is again comprised of minimal set(where Neimoidians are standing with background miniature.

    Scene: Planet Core continues

    The CG bongo looses power and settles down onto a miniature landscape. Power comes back and a CG Colo Claw Fish is right in front of them. They take off through the miniature landscape with the CG Colo Claw fish pursues. A CG Sando Aqua monster intervenes and saves the heroes again.

    Scene: Invasion Over

    The next shot is one that was revealed in the earliest teasers and trailers. It's a cherry picker crane shot overlooking a miniature Theed. There are some digital mattes for the background hills and some CG craft and droids in the plaza by the palace. The majority is miniature however.

    The shot of the Queen looking out the window was shot at Caserta. The shot out the window is combination Caserta and miniature plaza with CG STAP flying by.

    The Gunray and Haako disembark their landing craft onto a combo live action full scale plaza set with miniature background.

    Scene: Theed Lake

    The CG Bongo pops to the surface surrounded by a live action water lake set shot at Shepperton and a miniature cityscape lining the banks of the lake.

    In a scene cut from the film, a waterfall element was shot at Shepperton water tank topside with a full size Bongo prop and a small set backside and a CG waterfall over the crest. The scene ends with a pan up to a matte painting of Theed Palace.

    Scene: Invasion explanation

    The Queen and her entourage are escorted down a stairway shot at Caserta Palace. When they exit the palace and are descending the stairs of the palace, that is a scaled miniature. The jedi are sneaking through alleyways and alcoves that are part of the full size set built at Leavesden. The theed plaza is once again a full size set at Leavesden, miniatures, and digital matte elements in the distance.

    The jedi drop down out of a walkway live action set from leavesden and confront the droids. The backgrounds in these shots comprise both live action set and miniature buildings.

    Something must be also be said about the all the shots of jedi cutting down the droids throughout this film. Many of those shots of the droids flying apart and sparking as they are cut down by lightsabers were full size props built by the ILM model shop and then rigged with some small amounts of pyro to ignite at the right moment. Then the elements were composited into the shots along with lightsaber elements.

    Scene: Blockade Escape

    The heroes look into a hangar bay comprised of live action set, scaled model of queens ship and CG droids. They escape Theed. They fly out of the hangar being shot at by a tank as part of a a miniature Theed model.

    In space the miniature queens ship escapes a miniature of the federation ship. The ship is hit, a scaled element with pyro. The droids embark outside to repair it. A live action element for the droids was featured and composited into the model ship surroundings.



    More tomorrow.
  13. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Scene: Tatooine Arrival

    The Queen's ship moves to set down on Mos Espa's outskirts. Once landed, the ship was a scaled miniature with a small sand dune set piece surrounding incorporated into Tunisian plate photography and digital matte paintings.

    [IMG]

    The only piece of the ship that was built was a ramp and tiny section of surrounding ship around the door frame.

    Scene: Arrival in Mos Espa

    The heroes walk through the streets of Mos Espa. Most of the city was a physical set built in Tunisia. But there were some digital matte and model embellishments scattered throughout the Mos Espa scenes.

    Here is ILM vet Bill George working on a slave quarters miniature extension:

    [IMG]

    Not exactly model related but one of the more interesting fx they did for the shots of characters coming into Watto's shop or Shmi's home was incorporate live action photography of the location Tunisian exteriors with the Leavesden studio set interiors. There's a few shots of the heroes arriving and leaving Watto's shop and Anakin's home that incorporate this technique. ILM first tried it out on the film Contact a few years prior to TPM. They called it a blorph. There's a scene in that film where Jodie Foster hears a signal out in the NM Array. That was shot on location and she runs out of her car, still on location, and then up the stairs and through the doorway of their listening post and into the stage bound set. Movies have tried to do that type of stuff with subtle wipes and blends for years but not as flexible as digital afforded.
    On TPM, ILM would perfect it.
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 9, 2014
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  14. Minez01 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2005
    star 1
    I don't have any comments in particular other than that I am really enjoying this thread! I had no idea about most of these things, keep up the great work!
  15. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6

    Thank you very much. I will next delve into the pod race sequence over the next few days.
  16. Minez01 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2005
    star 1
    So you know, I'm going to print out this thread and re-watch the entire movie with the notes when they're finished :D
  17. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Arrival at Anakin's Scene

    [IMG]

    Most of this is practical with full size sets. But there was a rod puppet 3PO built for the film. This was puppeteered by ILM's Michael Lynch during the film and built by Lynch and a team of ILM creature makers. Lynch was then erased or painted out during the paint and rotoscope phase of the vfx work(usually at the first).

    [IMG]
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  18. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    This thread will mainly focus on models and miniatures as well as practical fx built by ILM for Episode One. This is to keep it distinct from the Prequel Practical FX appreciation thread stickied above. However, I do want to show this pic as it's not talked about much:

    [IMG]

    These are the sith probe droids Maul turns loose when he arrives on Tatooine. They were full size props shot in close up shots.
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 11, 2014
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  19. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Mos Espa Arena Main Hangar Scene

    The Podrace. What more can be said? Well actually, a lot can be said if we break it down in techniques utilized. But I'm going to focus on ILM's miniature contributions, which were substantial.

    Anakin and the heroes arrive inside the Mos Espa Hangar and meet Watto.

    Here's one of the shots:

    [IMG]

    This wide shot is even better:

    [IMG]

    Basically production built the pod race engines on both sides of the camera when the camera was shooting in this direction. The roof and walls were miniature. These were combined with extras on-set and blue screen shot ILMers added later and CG characters.

    Here's a production on-set photo:

    [IMG]
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 13, 2014
  20. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    The Podrace Sequence

    Just going to do the whole thing in no particular order.

    [IMG]

    [IMG]

    [IMG]

    [IMG]

    [IMG]

    Prince Xizor hanging out there huh?

    [IMG]

    [IMG]
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 13, 2014
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  21. SlashMan Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2012
    star 3
    The 3PO effect always looked great, but once I realized how they did it, I gained a lot of respect for the process behind it. I believe they went back to an old Japanese puppeteering technique, and combined that with modern technology to make it seamless. A very clever solution.

    Making 3PO in CGI back then may have been more trouble than it was worth, and wouldn't be as convincing. I think ILM really perfected the art with Grievous.
  22. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    So the intros take place and the racers start their engines for the race.

    Here is Teemto Pagalies pod racer built by the ILM model shop:

    [IMG]


    Yes, that is Mythbuster Tori Bellucci on the left.

    Here is Dud Bolt. His pod and racer were built full size. Danny Wagner of ILM was Dud Bolt:

    [IMG]

    They only built Dud Bolt from the waist up since that's all that would be seen in the film:

    [IMG]

    In the middle you see Mars Guo. That was another puppet built for the pod race.

    Here is the puppet in the film. This is after Sebulba throws the wrench into Guo's engines and he starts to crash.
    [IMG]
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 14, 2014
  23. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Here is Mawhonic. In the shots during the race, he is played by ILMer Danny Wagner. They also built his animatronic head.

    [IMG]

    Next is Sebulba's pod racer:

    It was built full scale by the ILM model shop. But Sebulba is CG. Most of the pod racer characters were CG. The ones mentioned above were the exceptions.
    [IMG]

    Here is a wider shot of the miniature Mos Espa arena with announcer booth. The interior of the booth was also a scaled miniature with screen graphics added later in post production:

    [IMG]
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 14, 2014
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  24. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Aurra Sing. Sigh.

    Do you remember her story? She was supposed to be introduced in Ep 1 and then have a wider role in II. Well, we know how concrete and set in stone the story lines for the entire prequel trilogy was in 1997….not much. So, she was relegated to a tiny blink-and-you-miss-her cameo in Ep 1….and the TCW show(but were talking films here).

    So what does this have to do with ILM?

    ILM was completely responsible for realizing her character onscreen. Here take a look:

    [IMG]

    Here is her finished shot in the film. She's overlooking a canyon(miniature by the way).

    Anyway. ILM built her costume, did her makeup and even built all her weaponry and additional stuff. They even built that balcony she's standing on. George directed her at ILM.

    [IMG]
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 14, 2014
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  25. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Here's a look at Aurra on her balcony set from ILM.

    [IMG]

    [IMG]

    More balcony Sing from ILM. Guy right in front with SW jacket is Dough Chiang. Left of him is Danny Wagner. Lady on balcony next to Sing is ILM costumer Annie Polland. Rightside picture is Danny Wagner building several battle droid blasters for use in battle droid shots.
    Last edited by ShaneP, Feb 14, 2014
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