Hutch's Gallery

From the Earth to the Moon

Saturn V

This would be a shot of the Mercury Redstone rocket in flight, nearly filling the frame from top to bottom. The Saturn V rocket would then go through the frame, passing the Redstone. Obviously, this never happened in real life. This was a conceptual shot to show the relative size of the two rockets, and to imply the leap in technology that took place at this stage of the space program.

The Redstone was photographed on stage against a green screen for compositing. The Saturn V would be shot against the sky in Palmdale, with smoke blowing past it to represent clouds.

It was decided to mount the model on its side, rather then standing upright, for several reasons. The rocket had to travel through the frame, this meant moving the camera past the model. With the model mounted upright this could have been done with a boom crane, but as a boom travels through an arc, the distance between the camera and the model would have changed during the shot. Also, with the model upright, it would have to lean forward so that the camera could tilt up to avoid seeing the mountains in the distance, further complicating the camera move. With the model on its side, up on a platform, the camera could be mounted sideways, tilted up, and simply dollied past the model.

Additionally, with the model upright , the wind and smoke machines would have been forty feet in the air! When the smoke hit the platform below the model it would have curled around and risen back into the shot.

The rig to mount the model was built as a counterbalanced cantilever, so that the smoke blowing past would not disappear behind the supporting posts. When positioned to camera, only the supporting posts were visible, the rest of the rig being obscured by the model. The posts would be digitally removed, but they were painted blue, approximating the color of the sky, to give the computer folks a head start.

A great deal of planning was necessary, working closely with Visual Effects Supervisor Ernie Farino and Director of Photography Tony Cutrono, to ensure that our rig would accomplish the shot as storyboarded. Back when I was doing computer animation I wrote a little computer program that would calculate field of view for a given lens at a given distance with a given aspect ratio. This came in very handy, as did Tom Seymour's drafting experience.

>>  Click on any thumbnail image for a larger view  <<

These diagrams (drawn by Tom Seymour) indicate some of the planning that was necessary to ensure that our rigs would accomplish the shots as they were storyboarded.

Charles and Tom assemble the rig.

More assembly. In the foreground is the rig to hold the Mercury Redstone model.

Charles does some precision adjustment.

The rig on the platform, and the model on the rig.

The desired effect.

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© Copyright 1997 R. Hutchins
Unless otherwise noted, all photos are © Copyright 1997 R. Hutchins. All rights reserved. - Revised December 1997