Outstanding Effect Shots, part 23 of 24

Welcome to the Single-Minded Movie Blog advent calendar. Between the 1st and the 24th of December every day will bring you a short post about a classic or not so classic shot from the golden era of visual effects.

The new Europa
- from 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Peter Hyams' wonderfully straightforward 2010: The Year We Make Contact, a follow-up to the classic, frustratingly nonsensical 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), ends on a beautiful image, showing the beginning of life on Jupiter's moon Europa. The camera tracks past a primordial landscape and settles on the mystical monolith, ready to guide whatever new life will evolve.

The effects were produced by Boss Film Studios, supervised by Richard Edlund, and once again Mark Stetson and his crew delivered the models. Because that's all this is. A huge model, captured in-camera.

The tabletop miniature itself measured 40 feet by 20 feet. The plants covering the area came from many different sources: Some of them were merely bent wires, covered in foam and glue, there were some plastic aquarium plants, and a few real plants such as palms and cactus. To create the proper atmosphere, heavy smoke was used during the shooting. So heavy, in fact, that some of the plants nearly suffocated, and had to be taken outside to rest a few days, before they were ready for next take!

A real complicated element of the miniature landscape was the water, always tricky to pull off in small scale. Other materials were tested, but in the end real water was the only way to go. To break up the surface and make the scale work better, thin netting - similar to bridal veil material - was laid out in the water, only partially submerged. The sky in the background was a painted backing, with holes cut, where two light were used to simulate the dual suns.

To make the shot work properly and sell the scale, the background was mounted on a track, same as the camera, and they were moved simultaneously, to create the illusion that the sky was indeed far away, and not merely 20 feet.

Relatively speaking it's a fairly simple shot, but it works SO well, and when the classic 2001 score begins to play it becomes truly magical.

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