Magazine article American Cinematographer

Creating the Electronic Special Effects for "The Invisible Man"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Creating the Electronic Special Effects for "The Invisible Man"

Article excerpt

The unusual demands of the project were met by means of Compact Video's Image 655-line resolution system of high-quality images for tape-to-film transfer

When Universal produced its TV Movie Of The Week, "THE INVISIBLE MAN", starring David McCallum, producers Harve Bennett and Steve Bochco, director Bob Lewis and cinematographer Enzo Martinelli were faced with the problem of how to create special visual effects that would normally be achieved on film, but because of television's tight shooting schedules, filming these segments became impossible.

The production called for Invisible Man David McCallum's head and hands to appear and disappear when his veins were injected with a magical juice. Only his clothes were to remain visible to establish his whereabouts. Film was initially tested but proved to be impractical. The show had to be shot in 18 days and the lag between filming, viewing the results and making any alterations or corrections was far too time-consuming. A faster method was required. Videotape and its electronic matting capabilities appeared to offer a practical solution.

The project was taken to Compact Video Systems, Inc., a supplier of videotape production and post-production facilities. Universal's desired objective was to be able to intercut videotaped special effects segments with 35mm film without creating discernible quality differences. Because of the problems associated with intercutting film and tape resolution, color matching and picture contrast - Compact's president, Bob Seidenglanz, suggested employment of the company's Studio Pak system integrating their three PCP-70 cameras (because they are highest-resolution camera systems), a 90-minute AVR-2 recording machine, special effects units and, the key to quality tape-to-film transferring, Compact's Image 655-line resolution system.

The 655 system makes it possible to produce electronically-generated, high-quality taped images to be transferred to 35mm motion picture film. With optimum 35mm resolution severely curtailed by the limited input possible with the existing 525-line/30-frame NTSC standard for North American television, most 35mm tape-to-film transfer product has been barely adequate to achieve quality results. The 655 employs a modified sync generator and modifications in the electronic videotape recorders and other associated equipment which produce a 655-line television system at 24 frames per second which equals the film standard. The 655 lines of information produce a substantially better picture than even the European PAL standard and markedly improved color resolution. With 655, videotape can be produced as the input to the Image Transform transfer system, at 24 frames per second, thereby eliminating the need for frame conversion. Every line of every frame is recorded on film.

There are four major improvements achieved by the 655 system over 525-line standard television. First, motion discontinuity, created by the usual 30 television frame conversion to 24 film frames, is removed from the 35mm transfer because of the precise framefor-frame conversion. second, there is a 28% improvement of vertical resolution and a corresponding 28% reduction of line structure effects because the lines are much closer together. Also, there is greater picture-noise reduction because of the closer line structure and, finally, there is marked improvement in color resolution. The end result is a sharper picture with brighter, cleaner color rendition and improved noise and grain characteristics.

Employing the Studio Pak, a technical crew supplied by Compact Video (not including audio personnel who were provided by Universal), and. in conjunction with Image Transform consultant Ken Holland, Universal tested segments from the script not only to determine intercutability of the videoeffects sequences with film, but also to familiarize themselves with the handling of the Compact Video equipment and the workings of the Imagematt process. …

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