Director Louis Morneau was attracted to idea of exploring people's fear and fascination with bats. "We try to give it a sense of realism and also tap into the fear of the unknown." With that in mind, Morneau created a visual style that puts you in the
center of the fury of a swarming bat attack. "We wanted to make it seem like you are actually experiencing the horror of being surrounded by these creatures. It makes it more entertaining and suspenseful. focusing on keeping dialogue to a minimum, and highlighting the characters' chilling (physical) experience each time they come upon these creatures.''
With the idea of making the terror as all-encompassing as possible, Morneau began plotting his visual approach. "We did some tests early on and found that a combination of different types of special effects would be powerful. We decided to use both traditional film techniques that have been around for years and combine them with computer enhanced digital effects.' BATS utilizes the most cutting edge special effects, from animatronics to CGI, in order to put the most striking images on screen. "The combination of both live action creatures and the computer effects gives the greatest sense of realism," says
Morneau. "You're not always seeing the computer effect. you're not always seeing the live action effect, and the combination makes it seem that much more effective."
Special Effects Coordinator Eric Allard (STUART LITTLE, ALIEN RESURRECTION. SHORT CIRCUIT) agrees with Louis Morneau's vision. "You need a variety of effects. and to have everything tie together." Everyone grew increasingly enthusiastic as they realized the potential to create a film that was truly visually arresting, says Allard. "We went the extra mile because we knew we were getting so many great shots." Co-producer Louise Rosner adds.
"The visual style is very frenetic. There were at least 3 cameras on set every day. and there are plenty of big, swooping crane shots." The crew also used a "bat-cam" to capture the perspective of an attacking bat.
Yet only two live bats were used on screen. They appear as the friendly bats whom
Dina Meyer finds while doing research before she is called to Gallup. Lou Diamond Phillips played with one of the bats in between takes and fed it a ringworm. "I was surprised by how gentle it was," the actor says. The virus-infected bats that attack the townspeople of Gallup were designed to be physically realistic, but first and foremost, they were engineered to be as frightening as possible. Animatronics and CGI were used to create the most terrifying bats. Morneau and the creative team selected certain features
of different breeds of bats to create the bats in the film.
To bring these bats to life, animatronics experts KNB FEX Group (PULP FICTION, THE GREEN MILE. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) were responsible for the design, fabrication and operation of the mechanical bats. Their artistic team (a crew of more than 40 people) created over 250 mechanical bats for the film, and seven puppeteers were on set to operate them. The bats
were operated by motors and remote control or were hand- or rod-puppeted. Different puppets were designed for both flying and walking bats, and oversized bats were built for close-ups of the bat's facial features, such as the curl of a lip for a menacing snarl.
KNB's Greg Nicotero says, "the biggest challenge was the sheer magnitude of the work. Louis Morneaus storyboarded sequences were very, very ambitious. And he was always expanding what he wanted the bats to do. and then we'd scramble to make it work somehow." Nicotero says that they' were pressed to deliver more and more bats for Morneau. "On set, they'd decide to light some of the mechanical bats on fire or blow them up or run over them. Then they'd need more bats. We were making them as fast as we could and then shipping them<
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