Here we shake hands with Lee
Zavitz, veteran special-effects director, who is overseeing a trial
run past the camera of the General
Grant, a 27-foot-long scale model
of an ocean clipper of the late '80s.
Cable Tows Ship
"Our problem," Lee says, "is
absolute, convincing realism. Any
tiny flaw will be magnified when
the picture is shown.
"This ship sequence is fairly
simple, merely a shot of a ship under full sail in the open ocean. Yet
more than a dozen technicians are
dovetailing their work on a tight
schedule to get just the right
Lee explains that the miniature
ship is attached to an underwater
cable that tows it past the camera
at the angle and speed desired.
Steam and smoke that issue from
the stacks of the auxiliary engine
on the ship are produced by smoke
cartridges. The tiny moving figures
on deck are animated by battery operated motors. The bow wave
and stern wave are produced by
jets of water from small water
pumps attached below the model's
water line. For complete realism,
water is splashed along the model's
sides just before a run is made.
Not one detail is overlooked. Even
the waves are scaled down.
"The appearance of the water
more than anything else is apt to
give away a miniature-ocean
shot," Lee says. "The whole thing
looks phony if the water isn't exactly right. First we set the wave
machines to deliver an ocean swell
scaled down to four inches instead
of four feet. Next we want a little CONTINUED