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VAN HELSING

Location And Effects
Principal photography relocated to the soundstages of Los Angeles' Playa Vista Stages in April to film perhaps one of the most iconic scenes in film history—inside Frankenstein's laboratory, with the Doctor declaring to the world, "It's ALIVE!” For the scene, production designer Cameron paid tribute to the classic film, filling the lab with the familiar shapes of Frankenstein's equipment while making the instruments more complex than their 1930s' predecessors.

In addition to the practical Frankenstein laboratory set, Playa Vista housed Castle Frankenstein's foyer, balcony and skylight, along with Castle Dracula's lab, antidote room, coffin room and skylight.

Richard Roxburgh next got a taste of the wireworks with which his Brides were already quite familiar while filming the sequence inside Castle Dracula's coffin room, where Dracula rises from his burial chamber and walks straight up the wall to join his Brides.

Sommers quips, "My problem is that I try to make every scene more complicated. In the script, I have Dracula walk up, hug his Brides and console them. On set, I think, ‘Well, that's boring. What if they're hanging upside down?' I sometimes make my life miserable when I do stuff like that. And so you have to really hang them because of gravity—you can't fake it.”

Stunt coordinator R.A. Rondell comments, "Some filmmakers would do that with visual effects or an upside-down set. We did it for real. Richard walks up a pillar, up about 30 feet, and then on the ceiling—it was all done practically. We worked extensively with Richard, Elena, Silvia and Josie to get them fluent and comfortable executing some fairly difficult moves, like diving off of a balcony. They got so good at doing the wireworks—they'd jump off and fly down, then land and walk away like it was nothing.”

Roxburgh relates, "Apart from the pressure headaches, I would get a real buzz out of hanging upside down and walking across the ceiling. I loved it.”

Further filming at the Playa Stages involved scenes played out on the sets for the foyer and the skylight of Castle Frankenstein, as well as in a tower room of Castle Dracula dubbed the "antidote” room. Then, in mid-May, filming began on the massive set of Castle Dracula entrance hall, built at Downey Studios.

As conceived by Cameron and Sommers (and based on early conceptual drawings of illustrator Deak Ferrand), the gargantuan set of Dracula's entrance hall was only of fraction of what would eventually appear (enlarged through visual effects) onscreen.

"As Dracula's lair almost goes into a parallel universe, I was trying to create a unique architectural look,” explains Cameron. "It derives a lot of elements from Hindu architecture, and from the architect Goudi. Castle Dracula was more of a challenge, because it's trying to come up with a look you haven't seen before. I wanted the castle icy, cold and violent.”

The same magic visual extension would occur on the next set, that of the tower bridge, which connects the antidote tower with the laboratory. While the actual set consisted of approximately 200 feet of bridge and one tower, the filmic image would extend the set well beyond its practical boundaries.

From Transylvania to Paris—next stop, the belfry tower of Notre Dame for Van Helsing's encounter with the full CGI character of Mr. Hyde, high above the streets of Paris. Because of the complexity of the scene, which would combine live-action, a computer-generated character, and a practical set with visual and special effects, ‘pre-vis' (3D animated storyboards) were created for the more than 70 shots called for in the sequence. The use of a CG character provided the filmmakers with a great deal more flexibility in the types of action that could be executed in the scene.

Once additional shooting was completed back at Playa Vista Stages—scenes

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