The secrets behind the life (and death) of Titanic’s propeller guy

TITANIC_PROPELLER1
Illustration by Aidan Roberts.
A man falls from the poop deck, hitting the bronze hub of the starboard propeller with a sickening smack.

That line from James Cameron’s script for Titanic, coming deep into scenes of the chaotic sinking of the famous cruiseliner, might sound simple enough. But it would turn out to be the basis of one of the blockbuster film’s most memorable shots.

The man who strikes the starboard propeller, and then continues to spin wildly before slamming into the ocean below, forever became known in movie lexicon as ‘the propeller guy’. Bringing him to life and, sadly, death, would require a gigantuan effort from Titanic’s visual effects crew – principally Digital Domain – which combined live action, miniatures, digital doubles and digital water to realise the final ‘sickening’ moment.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Titanic, vfxblog talks to key members of the VFX crew to uncover a few remaining secrets about propeller guy, including how animator Andy Jones tackled the shot on his first ever feature film, how the elements making up the final scene were composited in an early version of NUKE, and the surprising truth behind whose face was used for the digital victim. Continue reading The secrets behind the life (and death) of Titanic’s propeller guy

‘Flubber’ turns 20: how ILM made the shape-shifting green goo come to life

Flubber_dance

Twenty years ago, the film release schedule was awash with CG and VFX-heavy projects. Industrial Light & Magic, which had had a hand of course in a number of these, further demonstrated a diverse visual effects skill set with its work on Flubber.

Brand new challenges for the studio came in the form of Flubber itself, which had to be both a transforming piece of sticky goo and a character with major personality, while also being reflective and translucent. ILM’s artists solved these issues in several ways, including taking advantage of Softimage’s MetaClay tools.

Philip Edward Alexy was a lead technical animator at ILM on Flubber, and he shared some memories of the show with vfxblog. The show was overseen by visual effects supervisor Peter Crosman, and by VFX supervisors Tom Bertino and Sandy Karpman at ILM. Alexy also shares some rare crew shots and behind the scenes stills from during production. Continue reading ‘Flubber’ turns 20: how ILM made the shape-shifting green goo come to life