Interstellar miniature models

The word “miniatures” can give the wrong idea when talking about filmmaking. Compared to the “actual” size of the Death Star, for example, the miniature model created for Star Wars was tiny. Compared to a human, it’s still pretty big. Similar miniatures were (ahem) a big part of Interstellar, and New Deal Studios created some amazing models for the film.

The company previously made a Batmobile and garbage truck for The Dark Knight, planes for The Dark Knight Rises, and a model of the hospital fortress to be destroyed in Inception. For Interstellar, New Deal made miniatures of the Endurance, and the Ranger and Lander crafts. Docking shots, a scene featuring an explosion, and the descent into the black hole all used significant miniature effects. Below, see images of the Interstellar miniature models, and get more info on how they were used.

FXGuide has a great feature on the miniature work in Interstellar, and this image of the Endurance, the ship/station seen on the poster above. Check out this beauty. It’s gorgeous.

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The ship was built as a miniature, and as CG. For the Ranger and Lander crafts, full 1:1 size models were also built for location work, but the Endurance was big enough that miniatures and digital models had to do. Ian Hunter, the VFX supervisor who worked on the models at New Deal, explains how (spoiler alert!) the model was used with an unconventional camera rig to create the shots in which part of the Endurance explodes.

Christopher Nolan wanted the camera attached to the side of the model to emulate shots that had been done in other formats, and that required some ground-level innovation.

We came up with something we called the ‘Pelicam.’ We took a Pelican case – a durable equipment case – and we cut a hole in it and mounted our VistaVision camera inside the case. We attached it to the nose of our exploding breakaway Ranger, and then we took a pyrotechnic ‘Sweeney’ trip and attached it to the nose of the Ranger. And that’s what held the Pelicam in place. The Pelicam had a cable going off to the crane above like a tether. So it actually rode the exploding Ranger for several frames, and then at a specific point we could cut that cable and let the camera free to get it out of harm’s way. In the end both takes are in the movie.

So the crazy expensive camera used for these effects shots was housed in one of these cases with a hole cut in it for the lens — which is about as basic a rig as you can come up with for a complicated shot.

There’s a lot more at FXGuide, and we’ll leave you with this shot of the great Ranger model, as it is positioned in an upright stance for lighting and shooting. The way Nolan wanted these lit and shot was different from the way miniature effects are often done now; read the full article for much more detailed info.

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