About The Production
Principal photography commenced on August 27, 1997, in Kadoka, South Dakota, where the vast terrain resembled the surface of the asteroid
Principal photography commenced on August 27, 1997, in Kadoka,
South Dakota, where the vast terrain resembled the surface of
the asteroid. But before cameras began rolling in the Badlands,
Michael Bay and his crew had already shot thousands of feet of
film in documenting sequences in New York, Texas and Washington,
D.C., as well as completing some of the most spectacular segments
of second unit photography at Cape Canaveral.
Responsible for the domain of cinematography was director of photography
John Schwartzman. Schwartzman, who has known Bay for many years,
began shooting commercials and music videos with the director
after graduating from college. When Bay was tapped to shoot his
second Bruckheimer hit, "The Rock," Schwartzman had
already created a name for himself in the commercial world, and
was moving from smaller independent films into studiosponsored
projects. He was delighted to come onboard when Bay invited him
to join them on Alcatraz. His exemplary work on "The Rock"
catapulted Schwartzman into the highest echelon of cinematographers.
The crew began second unit on April 3 at Kennedy Space Center
in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where they shot the first of two shuttle
launches. This first launch of the Columbia was done during the
day, as a test of sorts, to determine camera angles, film speed
and other variables. The second, allimportant launch of
the Atlantis took place on a warm, humid evening in midMay.
"Night launches are only done about every 18 months or so,"
says director of photography John Schwartzman. "We knew if
we didn't get it right, there was no second chance. Watching the
launch and actually being able to film it was one of the most
exciting things I've experienced in my life."
Fifteen cameras were used to record the event, 12 of which were
placed inside the threemile safety zone of the launch pad.
Many of NASA's cameras were replaced with the production's Panavisions.
Bay, Schwartzman, gaffer Andy Ryan and key grip Les Tomita had
to plan and accommodate tor a drastic change in light levels during
the blastoff, not to mention the safety of expensive camera equipment.
The camera and grip departments also had to build special housings
for the cameras, weighing them down so that the concussion from
the blast would not send the cameras into outer space as well.
Special filters were used to protect each camera lens from the
hydrochloric exhaust left in the shuttle's wake.
The night launch footage was then transferred to the art department
and visual effects crew, whose jobs were to transform NASA's current
technology into futuristic visions of the shuttles. They augmented
the footage with additional booster rockets in order to give the
shuttles the power necessary to take advantage of the moon's gravitational
pull and slingshot around the moon, enabling them to land on the
These and many other complex visual effects are being created
by 13 different effects houses at work on the movie. In charge
of the overall effort is Pat McClung, a veteran of Digital Domain
and ILM, who was brought to the project by producer Gale Anne
Hurd after their longtime association on several James Cameronhelmed
projects. McClung (who put together an inhouse effects team
referred to as Vfx) and Richard Hoover at Disney-owned Dream Quest
split the duties of designing the effects sequences.
"Anything that had a lot of 3D imaging would go to
DQ because they have developed a huge 3D<
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