Wednesday, August 23, 2023

HighRise (1980) - Mark Sullivan

About 3 years ago (2020) I originally posted this at the Stop Motion Works facebook page and also, at that time, uploaded Mark's HighRise short at my SMW Youtube channel.  Recently, some kind of glitch occurred where the video image had lots of lines and static. I had to delete that original Youtube post, and re-uploaded the HighRise video again. Here is the new one ....

Just paraphrasing my past commentary:

'HighRise' was one of Mark Sullivan's earliest indie personal project as a filmmaker. All filmed with a 16mm Bolex movie camera using stop motion, hand made miniatures & models, and matte painted scenery & backgrounds. Old school classic special effects.

Mark's career progressed, becoming a professional artist - creator in special effects work, contributing to many well known Major movies. He earned a reputation of being very talented & skilled in Matte Painting visual special effects. Also, he is an accomplished Stop Motion Animator and versed in puppet fabrication & other eclectic skills as needed, to create Cinematic Visual Magic!

Note - Some of photos you can 'click' to see larger size image

Setting up a shot ... Suspended from an 'aerial brace' rig, the miniature building is hanging in front of the large background sky painting.

Looking at the photos, it appears that there were Two miniature models of the high-rise skyscraper. For close-up shots, this was about 4 feet (122cm) tall and the small model for distant scenes, appears to be about 12 - 13 inches (30 - 33cm).

Mark Sullivan animating the alien UFO space craft, landing on the large miniature model of the skyscraper building.

This is a 'Multi-plane' set-up. The miniature building model is attached with wires to an overhead 'aerial brace' rig. The clear glass (in the window frame) was air brushed to create an atmospheric haze in front of the model. The glass, foreground, and other elements are animated frame by frame on the sliding base, creating the 'trick effect' that the alien craft is flying over the desert planet landscape.


Another photo with a clearer view of the 'Multi-plane' set-up. You can see the glass window frame and other miniature ground elements which  slide on top of the animation table surface, by way of stop motion animation. Each sliding element is calibrated to move a very small incremental distance for each animated frame.

So basically, the miniature building did not move much or only minimally animated. The illusion of movement over the desert terrain was mostly created from the moving foreground, mid-ground, and background elements. Mark said that he added timed exposure 'blurs' to the front foreground which moves faster than the other sliding elements.

On location: Mark mentioned that he used a home made Camera Matte Box (similar to this here & here) which was attached in front of the 16mm Bolex camera lens. I assume the matte box had a front clear glass pane. Looking through the camera reflex viewfinder, on the glass (attached to matte box), you 'tape off' the outline of the building rooftops to create a hold-out matte for later double exposure (film back winding).

In the Studio: A counter black matte is made using black tape, black paint, etc.. This creates a reverse hold-out matte for the bottom half of the film. Now the miniature high-rise building can be inserted into the top half of the film, again, by way of double exposure (film back winding).

The final composite ... achieved by 'back winding' the film a number of times in the camera, similar to the Harryhausen Dynamation technique of in-camera compositing.

I think this is a  'glass' pane set-up on location. I am not sure if that is the miniature skyscraper model or perhaps it is a 'painting' of the building on glass, and lined up above the distant real city skyline ... maybe a test. This shot was not in the movie.

A 'Location Glass Painting' of background, distant desert field, mountains, & sky ... the painted glass pane in front of camera ... blending the live action foreground with the matte painting ...  the actor is Mark Sullivan's father, Thomas Sullivan.

A perspective matte painting of the high-rise building ... smoke & slight orange flame-like glow was added by double exposing (back winding the film).

This is the Alien / UFO that has the bothersome addictive habit of stealing large buildings from the planet Earth. The bug-like miniature model was 'scratch built' by Mark Sullivan. The body was carvable, sandable rigid foam. It uses 'Wire' Armature for the slight movements of the leg appendages.

Additional information / links for you: 
'Making Of' story / interview, (PDF file)  -  CINEMAGIC #23, year 1983

Mark Sullivan's VIMEO channel

In depth 2013 article interview with Mark Sullivan - NZ Pete Matte Shot

Nominated for a few major awards  / Some of Mark Sullivan's credited film work


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