Friday, October 1, 2010

Cloud tanks

Gormenghast was shown here in NZ in the early 2000's. It caught my eye because my parents had read the books and I remembered them talking about it when I was very young. It certainly lived up to childhood expectations.

It was a fantastic series full of wacky Brit character actors. As I later found out it was based on the first two books of a trilogy by Mervyn Peake.

I just found out that there was a book published called The Art of Gormenghast. Looks really interesting - will try to get the local library to get a copy so many can read it.

Apart from the amazing sets, the castle had a strange look about it. So I did some digging around to find out how they did it. Alice in Videoland had the DVD which included "the making of" in extra features.

It turned out that the makers used something called a "cloud tank" (big glass aquarium). A scale model of the castle was dropped into this cloud tank and hazy optical effects were created which was then filmed. It looked pretty good - not like a model at all.

Over the years I discovered that cloud tanks have been used to create the special effects responsible for many famous scenes in well known movies.

There is fascinating explanation on how that mountain cloudy scene was done in Close Encounters.

And then there is the smoky rocket effect in Firefly, a TV series made by Josh Whedon.

I'm planning to use a cloud tank on a film project early next year.

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