ILM Model Shop


The smoke hangs in the air like lead. The fire crawls along the ceiling, consuming the last 
thin breath of oxygen, then dies, retreats into the walls, and waits.
Heat and smoke and volatile gases swirl, waiting for a sudden gulp of air, waiting for a 'Backdraft'.
Special Effects Supervisor Allen Hall was there to tame the hellfire. 
Not the clean yellow flames that consume model buildings in disaster movies ('The Towering Inferno',..), 
but real fire. The fire that lives, consumes, hides and fights, and feeds, like a living animal.
The ILM model shop of Supervisor Jeffrey Olson built a few impressive miniatures for 
the hot show. Visual Effects under supervision of Scott Farrar.
'Backdraft' - the hypnotic beauty of the dirty, smoke-filled and hazardous fire!

William Baldwin - Kurt Russell - Director Ron Howard

Robert de Niro - Donald Sutherland - Director Ron Howard
Ron Howard (Director) - The whole crew was surrounded by flames.
'Backdraft' is one of the largest fire shows ever done.
Ron Howard: 'I wanted the action sequences to feel like combat footage, to take the audience 
right into the fire with the firefighters. 
We wound up with a group of actors who had an incredible attitude, who wanted to take it on.'
The live-action of the Garment Factory blaze was shot in an abandoned warehouse in Chicago.
ILM Model Supervisor Jeffrey Olson and a crew of model makers built a miniature of the factory.
Firefighter Schmidt (Jack McGee) noticed a crackling... 
The camera pans over his shoulder and the truck and ...bang, a massive explosion.
A miniature, built by the ILM model shop, explodes in a great effect shot.
The Industrial Light & Magic model shop boys at work under the supervision of Jeffrey Olson.
The Garment factory miniature was in a 1/4th scale, ten feet tall and twenty feet wide.
The facade, the windows, exceptional and stylish!
You can even look inside of the miniature factory through the windows and see some internal structures.
These paper-thin glass panes were especially built for the miniature.
Fine work on the grout lines of the brick facade.
The wooden framework of the miniature was covered with a cast plaster facing (mold), 
with the structure and look of a real brick facade (three-dimensional). 
The whole miniature factory stands on a steel frame for a low camera position. 
A great looking model of an old factory!
Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar in Cinefex#48: 'Behind that model was an incredibly 
complicated morass of plumbing and piping and wiring and exploding devices.'
Flames are shooting out of the windows of the 2nd floor (propane/kerosene) jumping up through 
the imploding windows (mechanically/wires) inside the 3rd floor.
A scene that requires precise timing and coordination.
An enormous effort and an impressive effect brought right to the point.
Another massive blaze is the hellfire in the chemical plant.
The ILM model shop crew built a miniature for a camera view of the rooftop collapsing as 
William Baldwin run for his live.
Live-action scenes were filmed on a special rooftop set constructed on a scaffolding.
Exterior shots were filmed at a condemned building near the lake.
The 1/4th scale miniature of the Chemical plant rooftop staged at ILM.
A 40 foot long and 9 feet tall 'model kit' brimming with small pyro charges, cables and 
stuff for fire effects. It took the model shop over a month to get it together.
The miniature had 1/4th scale smokestacks and skylights with real glass plates.
The windows were detonated by small charges.
The smokestacks were pulled down by cables into the hole of the collapsing rooftop.
Last finishing touches for the first take.
All the pyrotechnic charges (miniature) were triggered from a computerized control board and shot at high-speed.
Filming the miniature for the tricky and complex rooftop sequence.
Give me more smoke!
Explosion of the Chemical plant miniature.
It's challenging to shoot the fire effects and model miniature together compelling and believable (scale!).
Collapsing rooftop - The smokestacks fall into the hole (cable controlled).
The scale fits, great scene!
Fireman Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin) runs for his live as the rooftop of the 
chemical plant collapses. The close-up scenes were done by stuntman Johnny Hock.
For a wide-angle aerial shot (like from a Helicopter) a scene with a running fireman had to be 
matted (digitally composited) into the miniature shot.
The 'running fireman' was shot on the Hamilton Air Force Base, taking into account the right 
distance and height.
The finished composite also includes a Mark Sullivan foreground matte painting 
(the lower part of the buildings).
For the elevator shaft scene in the chemical plant the crew of Allen Hall built a 
set in and over a swimming pool.
The Set was hanging on a crane over the pool. 
To simulate the rising water, the crane simply lowered the set.
The jump through the flames to turn of the gas was done by stuntman John Casino for Kurt Russell.
An inverted set was constructed to simulate the 'brain flame effect'.
Flames creeping across the tenement floor.
The inverted set was required because this special effect fire could only be produced on 
ceilings or on the underside of surfaces.
A rolling effect designed by Allen Hall's crew and some ILM magic.
Between takes real Chicago fireman extinguish the flames.
Robert de Niro talking with Director Ron Howard.
Director Ron Howard and Producer Brian Grazer have worked together on various projects.
One of their best collaborations, next to 'Backdraft', is 'APOLLO 13'.
Certainly an interesting movie for this site :).
But before that You look here: Cocoon (Director Ron Howard).

 
Director Ron Howard having fun with Actor Tom Hanks - 'Apollo 13'.

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