RE: [FJGRailroad] From the Archives: a Fun Trivia Question
- I don't know. It looks awfully real. The fact that they went over a flatcar is what leads me to think it is a real shot.
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2009 14:21:23 -0800
Subject: Re: [FJGRailroad] From the Archives: a Fun Trivia QuestionJoe,
There are a million cheesy effects you can do with video or motion picture. Let me take a few educated guesses, in order of "most probable" to "least probable." For those who don't know I have worked as a broadcaster for nine years.
-The vehicle could have been accelerated across the ramp, over the train, and into a bunch of hidden sandbags (or some other blockade) on the far side of the track. Most likely the car was operated by remote control or by bracing the accelerator to the floor; inside was only a stunt dummy and a lashed steering wheel. This would be my best guess. The rest of the chase sequence was edited together in other ways. It takes a whole day, sometimes more, to get one five-second shot for a movie. Hence why they're so expensive to make.
-The vehicle was swung over a slowly-moving train via a cable or chain attached to a crane. The cable either wasn't visible or was edited out. The entire scene could have been shot at a slow film speed rate and played back at normal speed, making the scene appear to move faster than it really did. The technique of adjusting the film speed is cheap and easy to do; and it was used extensively in many of old police chase sequences. It was also used in many motorcycle jumps.
-The vehicle could have been shot in a studio using a very primitive form of Primatte, which was available at the time. This is the motion picture version of what in TV we call chroma keying. The action (car flying through the air) could have taken place in a studio in front of a blue or green screen; the film would then be altered to have another background (the train) inserted where the blue or green would have been. You see chroma keying every time you watch the weather on the local news; you see Primatte used extensively in the Schwarzenegger film "True Lies" (all the sequences where he's flying the plane); and you see the early version of Primatte in one of the original "Star Wars" films (where they're on some sort of an aerial chase through a forest of massive trees). That Star Wars sequence was shot by walking through a forest with a camera, speeding up the film, and then doing the action in a studio and laying it over the forest film.
-I doubt they were using rear projection technology for that particular scene. That's when the subjects, usually people, are really performing in a studio; another scene shot outside the studio is projected on a scene behind them. This technique was slightly more popular leading up to the 60s, but was rarely used after 1970, roughly. It was used for several sequences in the Bond film "Goldfinger" because Sean Connery was not available to do some of the shoots on location. This technique is very noticeable and looks flat to the eye.
If I had a clip I could probably tell you how it was made. Just as a wine connoisseur can tell you what's in the bottle based on taste, I could probably identify the visual tricks.
It's possible to get the railroads to go along with just about anything with the appropriate amount of insurance and surrounding liability safeguards. The reason these things are called stunts is because they're done with heavy control and are designed with every contingency in mind. Medical crews are set up with equipment ready in case something does go wrong. Helicopters are nearby. Fire apparatus are on hand as well.
Much of the video you see of trains actaully hitting cars was set up by local television stations through Operation Lifesaver. A group of stations in Minneapolis did such a stunt maybe, oh, five or ten years back with the Twin Cities and Western. The only dangerous thing that they were worried about was the TV stations' helicopters getting too close to one another.
FJ&G related content: FJ&G trains collided with highway vehicles at Harrison St. on 11/08/76; at Foster St. on 04/27/83; and on the Commons Road on 10/13/82. Source: FRA accident database.
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