Outstanding Effect Shots, part 24 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.

Nakatomi Plaza aftermath
- in Die Hard (1988)

Using the 20th Century Fox headquarters, Fox Plaza, to double for the fictional Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard seemed like a good, cheap solution. However, since the powers that be had famously forbidden the production to actually blow up the building, the model makers at Boss Film Studies had to be called in.

At the very end of the film we get this magnificent shot that shows the aftermath of the so-called terrorist attack. The camera starts at the top of the building, showing the burning rooftop, and then tilts down to the street to reveal the chaotic scene at the ground level.

The second part of the shot was indeed done on location, with hundreds of extras, debris everywhere and the charred remains of a helicopter. The first part of the shot, however, is a finely detailed 23 feet tall model, shot on the backlot at Boss.

The location footage was projected on a wall and tracked by computer, so the camera move could be repeated on the model. The idea was, that as some point there would be a transition from the model footage, to the "real" footage. Tissue paper was cut into tiny bits and shot separately in several layers to look like office paper tumbling down over the scene.

In the final shot all the elements come together perfectly, and the transition from the model to the real building is flawless. Yet another example of stunning movie magic. Christmas magic even.

And with that I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks to Mr. Dennis Rosenfeld for his invaluable contribution, and thanks for reading.

As is tradition there will be a final 2012 post on the last day of the year, but until then.... Yippee ki-yay!

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