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.
"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 effect."

Cable Tows Ship

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

Special-effects men produced realistic scene of train crossing trestle. Hidden in the trestle are cables to pull it down.

Cables are fastened to pipe hidden beneath the water. As the pipe turns, the timbers begin to break one at a time to bring down trestle just as the train thunders over the rails above.

Torrent of water, which supposedly weakened the structure, pours down miniature gully from hidden reservoir.
Popular Mechanics August, 1956
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Original material ©1956 Popular Mechanics Company
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