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SKY HIGH

Stunts and Effects
At Sky High, the students not only have attitude, a lot of them also have altitude, with special powers that allow them to jump, fly and stretch to the sky. Once the filmmakers compiled a cast who could bring the heart of SKY HIGH to life, their next focus was on forging the film's fast-paced action and visual thrills. In addition to storyboarding the film, director Mike Mitchell also designed detailed pre-visualizations—moving storyboards that look like video games—for the action sequences, allowing him to work out each scene's complicated mix of stunts and effects ahead of the game. "Everyone was really creative and worked together—camera, effects, stunts, costumes, art department—in sync right from the start and that really paid off on set,” says Mitchell.

Aiming for a bright, exuberant, youthful tone reminiscent of Disney family classics, Mitchell didn't want to rely too heavily on the ubiquitous CGI and green-screen effects most people associate with super hero adventures. Instead, he chose to rely on lots of innovative, old-school in-camera tricks and physical stunts utilizing wires, harnesses and cleverly engineered sets, similar to what might be used in a cutting-edge martial arts movie. "Because we wanted to hearken back to a kind of '60s comic book style in the film's look, we needed a more low-tech approach mixed in with the latest cutting-edge techniques,” explains Mitchell. "The film is still really action-oriented, and there are lots of big stunts and effects, but it's different this way from what people are so used to.”

For the cast, the emphasis on in-camera effects meant one thing: hair-raising stunts, and lots of them, from climbing poles to leaping through walls to flying at rocket speeds. Early on, the decision was made to do most of the stunts physically rather than digitally—and to have the actors doing as many as possible to heighten the exhilaration and the realism. "A lot of the stunts could have been done by a computer, but we all agreed it would be more authentic and exciting to do as much as we possibly could live,” says executive producer Ann Marie Sanderlin. "Our very brave young actors wanted to do all the really dangerous stuff, of course, and we were the ones holding them back in certain cases.”

At the center of the film's stunt-work are the flying sequences. To make the characters' superpowers more believable, Mike Mitchell wanted his cast to really appear to take flight. But how do you create a realistic sense of human bodies defying gravity without serious danger? In answer to that question, the filmmakers of SKY HIGH engaged the magical services of Scott Rogers' company GO STUNTS, which recently designed the groundbreaking, high-speed, computerized winches that made the flight scenes in "Spider- Man 2” so riveting.

SKY HIGH became the second film ever to use the new technology, which can whisk an actor up to 45 feet per second and stop his or her flight precisely within 3 inches of a window. The system allows the actors (or stunt people) doing the flying to move in far more complex and varied ways, creating a much more visceral experience for the audience.

"Scott Rogers made an amazing contribution to SKY HIGH,” says executive producer Mario Iscovich. "We're only the 2nd movie to ever use these electric winches, which are essentially a tool. How the stunts are then created, rigged, designed and rehearsed is the magic of Scott Rogers and his crew. Their stunts look real, they're innovative, they're fresh, and they are not what you see on every movie and that's what's really special about his stunts.”

Rogers (who also served as 2nd Unit Director) loved getting to play with the amazing powers of super heroes. "The fun part about designing stunts for SKY HIGH is that these are super hero kids who can destroy things without getting hurt. They're all someho

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