Gimbals and Motion Bases


A few of the largest gimbals ever built were designed to simulate the effects of an aerial storm 
on a plane in flight. Computer controlled, they could duplicate each move and position an 
infinite number of times for precise continuity throughout the filming.
No matter if it is a section of a 747 jumbo jet, a cruise ship, a submarine, a small dinghy or a car;
whenever a movie set is supposed to be in motion, a gimbal could be a powerful and valuable tool.
Gimbals and motion bases - giant mechanisms capable of lifting and moving large pieces of your film set.
All informations found in studio press releases and VFX studio press releases.
This report is updated on a regular basis.

Hold on tight, this will be a wild ride.

Dream Quest Images, under the direction of visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, created the 
visual effects for the underwater exterior sequences utilizing a variety of techniques such as 
computer graphics, digital image manipulation, motion control and high-speed photography of 
miniatures, detailed model construction (Supervisor David Goldberg), matte paintings, bluescreen 
photography, optical compositing and more!
Adding to the tension on screen is the evocative music score by Hans Zimmer.
Danger runs Deep.
What a great cast!
The sound stages at Culver Studios had to be reconfigured to support the largest hydraulic gimbal ever created.
This superior gimbal was designed and built by special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, Jr. and 
construction coordinator Dennis DeWaay and their crews, the same artisans who made the machinery 
that simulated submarine moves in 'The Hunt for Red October'.
"This particular gimbal had capabilities of moving 30 degrees port to starboard, bow to stern 
and all the oblique angles in between," explains Di Sarro.
"Incorporated into the valving of the hydraulics was a mechanism to stop the flow of movement 
at a quick rate when Tony needed us to simulate a depth charge or a torpedo hit.
We were also able to move the set in all directions at once by literally rolling the table."
The table in this case was a 44-foot square platform suspended 17 feet off the ground by a hydraulic lift. 
The base or footprint was as wide as the platform and rested on a foundation underground. 
At one time or another each of the interior sets of the Alabama was placed on the platform for filming.
Construction crews worked for two weeks, jackhammering through concrete, removing the floor of
Stage #16 and drilling 14 caissons (cylinders of reinforced steel filled with concrete) 25 feet 
deep into the ground to install the footing of the gimbal.
The caissons, each three feet in diameter, were then filled with 122 yards of concrete. 
Similar to the pilings used to hold up freeway overpasses, this base could support up to 65 tons. 
Construction of the gimbal itself took six weeks.
Shooting on the gimbal and lighting the rather small, tight sets posed distinct constraints on 
director Scott and DoP Dariusz Wolski.
'Tony wanted to convey a sense of claustrophobia. He wanted everyone to be sweating, from the 
tension and from the congestion,' explains Wolski.
'It was difficult, working on such tight sets. There was simply no room to put lights. 
We'd have to hang our equipment six feet above the ceiling of the gimbal.
I think it's easier to light three blocks at night than to light the submarine.' 
'By its very nature, a nuclear submarine is a soulless, antiseptic environment,' says Scott. 
'So we made the sub narrower than it really is and used long lenses and very hard light most 
of the time. I had a vision about how I wanted it to look. I want the audience to feel the 
anxiety that the characters feel. I wanted it to be very real and believable.'
'The gimbal was unbelievable. The Sets, the motion, it was fantastic. I wish I could have one 
of those at my house,' jokes Denzel Washington.
'I had my kids up on it while I operated it and they loved it. It was a lot of fun.'
'When the platform was actually moving back and forth it was kind of fun, it was like an 
E-ride at Disneyland,' laughs Gene Hackman.
'But when it was tilted at a very steep angle and stationary, it was difficult to walk, let 
alone act. You were fighting so hard to maintain your balance, as well as some kind of poise 
and composure, and still thinking about who you were and what your character was about. 
It was tough.'
A high-flying suspense thriller, TURBULENCE pits one courageous woman against the ferocity 
of nature and the even deadlier menace of a murderous madmen on the loose in a 747 at 
36,000 feet ...with no one at the controls.
Virtually all of the action in TURBULENCE takes place inside a Boeing 747 jumbo jet that is 
pitching wildly through a violent thunderstorm, a level six on a scale of one to six.
A mock 747 was built in sections...
Fear is in the air.
To capture the gyrations of the giant 747, the filmmakers turned to physical effects specialist 
Al Di Sarro, who had previously achieved a similar level of underwater 'turbulence' for the 
popular films 'Crimson Tide' and 'The Hunt for the Red October'.
Di Sarro devised an ingenious system utilizing a variety of gimbals.
'I had no idea what I was getting into,' Producer David Valdes recalls. 
'I didn't really even know what a gimbal was. I think most of the crew didn't really know what 
a gimbal was. What I did know was that 95 percent of the picture took place on an airplane and 
we had to construct something to simulate the kind of turbulent movement we needed, to make it 
as much as ride as a film. We want the audience to feel that they are along for the ride, 
that they are experiencing the same thing the characters are.'
The largest and most formidable of the gimbals was dubbed 'the rotisserie', it could roll a 
75,000-pound, 70-foot section of the plane a full 360 degrees in about 10 seconds.
Thirty-five feet high and constructed of 150 tons of steel, the massive gimbal enabled the 
production team to film the jet, Liotta and Holly tumbling through a complete revolution.
Though rotisserie gimbals had been used before for rolling cars or even a small room, 
it had never been attempted for anything of this scope.
To build it, Di Sarro's team had to actually rip out the floor of the soundstage, dig out six 
feet of dirt and pour concrete supports to hold it securely.
The longest of the gimbals used was designed to hold a 170-foot section of the plane. 
This allowed for virtually the entire body of the 747 model to be lifted up to three feet in 
the air as a single unit, and then rocked and shaken as if being buffeted by tremendous cross winds. 
'That was impressive,' Di Sarro attests, 'because all of the sections could move as one, 
flexing like a real 747 would in this circumstance.'
Finally, two 'speed' gimbals were also constructed to hold smaller sections of the jet, 
including the cockpit, which could then be rotated in any direction at angles of up to 
45 degrees in less than five seconds. Used to simulate a steep dive or an extreme ascent, 
these smaller gimbals could be controlled in such a way that Robert Butler could repeat the 
precise timing and exact position of the model for each take.
'Of all the gimbals, the rotary gimbal was the biggest headache,' Di Sarro says, 'but it was 
also the most spectacular to watch. when we cranked up the 300 horsepower electric motor and 
those seven 35-foot steel rings started turning, every light on the Culver Studio lot went 
dim and guys started inching for the door.
But it worked beautifully, even with 70 feet of plane on it.'
Behind the scenes, the rotisserie required cinematographer Lloyd Ahern and his team to work 
around a number of extraordinary lighting and camera hurdles. 
The circumference of the gimbal prohibited the use of exterior lighting to illuminate the interior, 
so the structure had to be rigged with interior lights.
Ahern also points out, 'With the set and the actors both moving, Steve McLean, our first 
assistant cameraman, had the almost impossible task of keeping the scene in focus with 
no reference points.'
Adding to the logistical problems of working in the close confines of a mock aircraft cabin, 
some members of the crew had to be literally strapped to the side of the rotisserie to shoot 
the tumultuous storm sequences.
Lauren Holly in the cockpit section on a 'speed' gimbal surrounded by a large greenscreen..
'For my first scene in the rotisserie, I was waiting on my mark, and when Bob called action, 
it started rocking and then they flipped it. I have to admit I was terrified ...but by the 
eleventh take I was having a fine time,' says Holly, 'it was like a ride at an amusement park.'
'I'm not a good flyer to begin with', Ray Liotta admits, 'and when the gimbal rocked the first 
time, I felt my palms getting sweaty. The rotary gimbal is monstrous and I was amazed by the 
intensity of it, but Bob Butler really knows his action, so I just let my confidence in him 
and my adrenaline take over.'
The Boss, Richard Edlund.
While the interior of the jet was rocking and rolling on gimbals, the exterior shots were 
beeing handled by the special effects wizards at BOSS Film Studios.
Most of the storm sequences were accomplished using a one-tenth scale model of the 747 jet 
filmed against a special tangerine screen.
In addition to the miniature 747, the CGI boys of BOSS Films created a highly detailed 
computer-generated model of the jet for certain sequences and excellent weathering effects.
The BOSS 'cloud unit' did an exceptional job with their realistically animated passing clouds.
Very stunning visual effects for a B-movie.
What happens when you put a cast and crew of over 300 people through a movie that has cramped 
and claustrophobic sets, lots of water, night-time exterior shooting, manufactured saltwater rain and open seas?
This was the one question that was on everyone's mind when principal photography on 'U-571' began.
'We felt like we were spread all over the Mediterranean. We spent a little over 10 weeks shooting 
the interiors of both the American and German submarines in Rome and then went to Malta for 
all the exterior photography,' explains producer Martha de Laurentiis. 
The producers (Dino and Martha de Laurentiis) have assembled an extraordinarily-talented team of 
behind-the-scenes personnel for U-571, including visual effects supervisor Peter Donen and 
special effects supervisor Allen Hall.
It was necessary to build 'floater' subs for the Malta tanks and 'seaworthy' subs that could 
be used in open waters for the exterior sequences.
The production crew constructed, among others, a 600-ton full-sized sea-going replica of a 
German type VII U-boat, as well as an American submarine from the same time period.
In order to portray the subs under the water, Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Donen was brought 
on at the early stages of pre-production. Known for his work with the plane crashes on 
'U.S. Marshals' and 'Executive Decision', he explains, 'I get hired to do what is called 
'invisible effects'. 'Invisible' because the whole idea of what I'm doing is to make people 
believe that what they're seeing is reality.'
Peter Donen continues, 'For this film we had to build five 45-foot miniature submarines that do 
various things. One sub has working propellers, working dive planes, periscopes that go up 
and down, and torpedo tubes that can fire. Another boat is our ocean-going submarine that is 
towed out in the open ocean behind some tug boat at seven knots and can submerge and surface 
upon command. The others are designed for blowing up and sinking in various forms and shapes.'
Director Jonathan Mostow riding the gimbal. The Director always insisted upon authenticity to 
all departments during pre-production, and the crew delivered when it came the time to shoot.
He explains, 'If you do things for real, it looks real and has a certain quality. 
It not only helps the visual quality on film, but it also helps the performances because the 
actors have to manufacture less in their own heads about what's going on.
The more stimuli that you can give them on set, the better performances you get.'
Scenes depicting the interiors of the vessels were shot on sets constructed on sound stage #5 
at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, Europe's largest sound stage.
For the Rome portion of the shoot, Special Effects Supervisor Allen Hall had to design a 
massive specialized gimbal which could sit in water.
He says,'I think it's the best gimbal in the world right now because it's built in a giant tank 
so you can lower it, which means people can access it directly on stage level and not twenty 
feet in the air. That feature makes it extremely user-friendly.'
Ms. De Laurentiis continues, 'What Allen designed hasn't been created on any other show.
It's size and capability of its motion is fantastic and is considered the Ferrari of gimbals.'
Mostow marvels, 'It's a massive engineering feat. We can put portions of the submarine set on 
the gimbal and simulate depth charging and sea motion. It's also designed to actually work 
under water so that we can submerge the set as well.'
Production Designer William Ladd Skinner on the interiors,'Each submarine configuration was 
designed modularly so as to be disassembled, moved, then reconfigured onto a complex gimbal 
system that allowed for radical set angles and movements as well as the ability to be submerged. 
In addition, we had to allow for major water effects, like high pressure leaks, flooding and and sinking.' 
Matthew McConaughey says, 'Sometimes you didn't feel like you had to act, you were really 
reacting to what was happening because it was all so real, from the rain and wind to the 
gimbal simulating the depth charges.'
Cinecitta, sound stage #5. 
In a sub section on the gimbal, Director Jonathan Mostow explains the scene.
Back in the 'MFS' pool on Malta. 'Floater' subs in heavy rain.
For the intensive storm sequence, Allen Hall and his team built the largest rain-making 
cranes in movie history to simulate the needed tempest called for in the script. 
Hall explains,'It was a big rain job because the tank is so huge, almost 400 feet across, and 
we had to get rain out there somehow. With the wind conditions constantly changing, we had 
to have cranes that could move so we could put the rain where we wanted.'
Malta boarding party. Matthew McConaughey, Jake Weber and Director Jonathan Mostow.
Producer mogul Dino de Laurentiis and Martha de Laurentiis.

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