6. POST PRODUCTION
6.1 VISUAL EFFECTS
Following on the heels of Raiders and Temple of Doom, the
Last Crusade presented the optical effects unit at Industrial
Light and Magic and the physical effects team in London with
the ultimate challenge, topping their own exemplary work in
the two previous films. With such diverse assignments as the
construction of an authentic World War I tank, the collapse
of an enormous temple, and the aging of a man into dust without
the aid of cutaways, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would
prove to be the perfect vehicle for cinematic one-upsmanship.
6.1.1 THE TRAIN CHASE
In the film's opening sequence Indy must contend with not
only the bandits chasing him, but also the train's inhospitable
occupants. At one point, he fights with a bandit on top of
a boxcar while an angry rhinoceros below pokes its prodigious
horn up through the ceiling. Lantieri rigged the roof to break
away and then had technicians down below thrusting a horn
up through the roof. A cuing system was rehearsed so that
at the crucial moment, the horn would burst up under River
Phoenix's arm, along his side and between his legs. The massive
foam and fiberglass rhinoceros prop had been created by the
British special effects crew but three days before filming
the scene, Spielberg decided he wanted the rhino to move!
John Buechler took on the challenge. The huge prop was delivered
to Buechler's North Hollywood studio from the stage at Universal.
Buechler and his crew set to work re-inventing the rhino.
Over the course of three days, Buechler and company resculpted,
re-cast, and mechanized the beast to such a degree, that not
only did the rhino blink, snarl, and snort as Spielberg wanted,
but it also wiggled it's ears! The director was so happy with
the final creature that he allowed Buechler to call "action"
and "cut" on the final shot of the film.
Elsewhere in the sequence Lantieri relied upon two mechanical
giraffes built in England by mechanical effects supervisor
George Gibbs and his crew. "The giraffes were operated by
cables and brake handles," Lantieri explained, "and we cut
skylight holes in the top of one of the boxcars so the heads
could stick up through. One of the first things we learned
was that steam locomotives are very loud - so loud that when
we were in the boxcar it was hard to hear directions. Ultimately
we used radios to communicate with David Tomblin, the first
assistant director. We could not stick our heads out of the
car because it would ruin the shots, so after a while we started
answering his questions with the giraffes themselves. David
would ask if the giraffes were ready, and the giraffes would
shake their heads 'yes' or 'no' in response. It got to be
Continuing his hide and seek chase onboard the steaming train
Indy encounters a ferocious anaconda, in reality an animatronic
6.1.2 AH RATS!
One of the most unusual effects involved the creation of
1,000 imitation rats, some mechanically articulated. Used
for a catacomb sequence, some of the fake rats were used as
swimming rats; while others were used for a conflagration
effect, so that no live rat was harmed during filming.
6.1.3 CASTLE BRUNWALD
For Indy and Elsa's arrival at the Austrian stonewalled castle,
an actual castle was photographed in West Germany. When the
real edifice was later deemed too small, however, ILM matte
department supervisor Mark Sullivan was called upon to expand
it with a painting. "We also needed to add a rainstorm over
the castle," said Sullivan. "In the past, effects people have
had trouble shooting and matting in real water, so we tried
something different, we filmed granulated Borax hand soap
against black, threw it into a fan to get the effect of sheets
of rain and shot it high-speed. Then, since it was a daylight
shot, we just barely double-exposed it in. If the Borax had
been brighter in the shot, it might have looked like snow.
Also, we used a fast speed so it would not appear to be drifting."
Mike Lessa in the animation department added lightning bolts
to further enhance the establishing shot.
6.1.4 BERLIN AIRPORT
Later in the film, with Henry's diary saved from a book burning
rally, Indy and his father race to the Berlin airport to catch
the next flight out of Germany. The task of creating a pre-war
representation of the Berlin airport fell to the ILM matte
department. The live-action basis for the painting was an
existing airport facility located on Treasure Island between
San Francisco and Oakland. The airport is now part of a military
installation, but in the 1930s it was used as a terminal for
seaplanes. Also appropriate was the fact that it had an art
deco style of architecture. Matte artist Yusei Uesugi added
a control tower, Nazi banners, vintage automobiles and a sign
that read 'Berlin Flughafen' as a final touch.
6.1.5 THE ZEPPELIN - THE CHASE
Unable to get a standard flight, the Joneses opt for the
only available alternative, a commercial zeppelin. When the
zeppelin is ordered back to Germany the Joneses, in order
to avoid capture, climb down into a small biplane attached
to the underbelly of the ship and fly off. Partial full-scale
sets and miniatures were used for the sequence. For shots
of Indy and Henry lowering themselves into the biplane, George
Gibbs and his crew constructed the entire belly section of
a full-size zeppelin. The set piece was suspended forty feet
in the air between two towers, and a full-size biplane was
attached to a large scissor lift that could lower it and move
it around in the frame. The full-size setup was used solely
for close-up and medium shots. Wide angles of the full zeppelin
employed a miniature constructed by ILM model shop supervisor
Michael Fulmer and his crew. The airship model, eight feet
long and carved out of foam, also featured a like-scaled miniature
biplane small enough to fit in one's palm. For scenes of the
plane separating from the zeppelin, a larger-scale biplane
with a two-foot wingspan was built. The zeppelin and biplane
miniatures were then shot separately under motion control
and combined in optical.
Though airborne and free of the zeppelin, Indy and Henry
soon discover they have not shaken their enemies and are in
fact being chased by two Nazi fighter planes. Once again,
full-size airplanes and miniatures were combined to realize
the sequence. For live-action shots involving the enemy pursuers,
Swiss army training planes were dressed to look like German
World War II fighters. To simulate machine gun fire, both
the fighter planes and the full-scale biplane were fitted
with electronic strobe lights and a revolutionary new firing
system designed by George Gibbs. "We built what we call 'gas
guns'- a new idea we pioneered based on the internal combustion
chamber of an engine. The guns run off liquid gas-propane
gas and oxygen-that we ignite with a spark plug similar to
what is a Honda motorbike. By doing this, we are able to avoid
using guns that shoot blanks-which is an advantage, not only
because blanks are expensive, but also because you can hurt
someone who is standing too close when the blanks go off.
With these gas guns, nothing comes out of them except flames.
Unfortunately, the technology works only with larger weapons
like machine guns. The equipment required is too bulky for
After father and son crash-land into a countryside shack,
they appropriate a car as their next escape vehicle. As the
fighter planes try to zero in on the speeding car, Indy barrels
around a comer and ducks into a tunnel. One plane veers away,
but the other crashes into the mountainside. Its wings shear
off completely, but the flaming fuselage continues on through
the tunnel as Indy and Henry race to stay ahead of it. There
was some discussion of trying to filming the scene full scale.
They realized that first of all it would be horrendously difficult
to do, especially in a location like Spain where you don't
have all the support and materials. But the main consideration
was the danger of putting real people in an old tunnel with
fire and explosives. So almost immediately it was decided
that there was no way to do that practically. So the ball
fell in the ILM's court.
"The fire tunnel involved miniatures shot against blue screen
and also a complicated miniature set," explained McAlister.
"The sequence begins when the plane crashes into the tunnel.
We filmed the plane motion control and made wings out of aluminum
foil that we stop-motion animated to crumble and break away
at the moment of impact. Then for shots of the action inside
the tunnel, we made quarter-scale models of the car, the airplane
and the tunnel itself which ended up being a hundred and eighty
Since there was no stage big enough to accommodate the miniature
set of the tunnel the filming took place in the ILM's parking
lot. It took up about 14 parking spaces for a couple months,
which ticked everybody off when they couldn't find a place
to park. "But it was worth it," said McAlister. The 210 feet
long fire tunnel was built in eight-foot sections, with each
section hinged on one side so the top could literally be lifted
up like a canopy for accessibility. The camera was affixed
to a very complicated sled that was pulled along the left
side of the set by a cable underneath the floor of the tunnel.
Both the car and the airplane chasing it were also on cables.
The models were moving at about twenty to thirty miles per
hour and at that speed, things really had to be timed very
carefully. The miniature plane was set on fire, sent through
the tunnel and filmed at high-speed to help keep the flames
in scale. Since the ambient light created by the burning airplane
was not enough to fully illuminate the inside of the tunnel,
additional lights were concealed within the detail in the
For close-ups of Indy and Henry inside the tunnel, Ford and
Connery were photographed against blue screen in a full-size
vehicle. The shots called for a dirty windshield in front
of them; but since this would have interfered with the transmission
of blue, the glass was removed and later filmed in miniature
for optical insertion.
As the action continues, the plane rockets past Indy and
his father, proceeds on out of the tunnel and explodes. For
that explosion a background plate of an actual tunnel was
shot in Spain. The same location was used for the very end
of the sequence where a real car with stuntmen drove out and
crashed through the airplane debris. For our plate, we shot
the exit point of the tunnel with a big explosion going off
to give us the correct lighting effect on the hillside around
it. Later we shot the miniature airplane motion control as
it skids out of the tunnel to the point where the practical
explosion on the plate takes place. To get pieces of the plane
flying around, we then blew up the model with a miniature
explosion. We also shot additional miniature explosions to
fill in the gap between the practical explosion on location
and the model explosion. To make it appear that the miniature
plane was kicking up rocks and dirt before it exploded animated
shadows and dirt elements were incorporated into the final
Emerging unscathed from the tunnel, Indy and Henry drive
on with the remaining Nazi fighter still on their tail. The
plane drops a bomb on the road ahead of them, gouging out
a huge crater, which Indy cannot avoid. With their vehicle
crippled Indy and Henry make their way, on foot, down to a
beach, only to find themselves about to be strafed by the
low-flying fighter plane. Sighting a flock of seagulls on
the sand, the professor uses his umbrella to frighten them
away. The birds fly up into the flight path of the airplane,
causing the pilot to lose control and crash into a mountain
To actualize the sequence, McAlister had to create images
of a plane smashing into a flock of seagulls without actually
harming any real birds."For the scenes where the airplane
hits the birds, we made up a whole bunch of crosses with feathers
glued on them. Actually, they looked pretty stupid; but because
the shots were quick cuts, all we needed moving through the
frame were shapes that looked like birds. We took the miniature
plane that we used for the fire tunnel, cleaned it up, put
the wings back on and hung it up in the air on a long crane
arm. Then we placed a painted backing behind it and had the
camera pan past the airplane so that it looked like the background
was moving and the plane was actually flying. During filming,
I had about a half dozen people dropping these cross shaped
feather balls onto the airplane from a grid above the stage."
The feather balls served as the base effect, but to simulate
a flock of birds in flight, a slightly more sophisticated
approach was employed. "We found flying toys called Timbirds
that you wind up like you would an old-time glider airplane,"
McAlister explained. "When you release them, their wings flap
and they actually fly. I believe they are loosely based on
a Leonardo da Vinci design from centuries ago. Just by chance,
one of our cameramen brought a Timbird in one day and released
it just before dailies. I thought it was neat, but didn't
give it another thought until about a month later when I was
having trouble finding real birds to use as a second element
on these shots. So we bought several hundred of these Timbirds,
wound them up and released them into the air against a black
background. Then we double exposed them into the scene to
create a denser flock of birds flying through the frame."
For one additional close-up shot of the plane's propeller
grinding to a halt, a miniature propeller was filmed with
ordinary feathers falling towards it.
The use of special effects for shots of birds crashing into
a plane was to be expected. However, even the shots of gulls
sitting on the beach had to be created by the special effects
team. "For three months I had people in Spain trying to get
seagulls," Robert Watts remarked, "but no one could come up
with any. Usually, if you go out on a beach and throw a few
pieces of fish around, millions of gulls will swoop in; but
because it was their nesting season, there were none about.
So we ended up using dummy seagulls that we cast in plaster
and covered with feathers. We had some standing on the rocks,
some on the beach, and some out in the water with anchors
on them, bobbing up and down on the waves. They looked fantastic.
Even standing ten feet away, it was impossible to tell they
were not real. Their feathers fluttered in the wind, which
gave them movement. Once we had everything all set up, real
seagulls suddenly started to appear in the sky - with all
those dummies on the beach, they must have wondered what was
going on and decided to check it out." For one additional
shot of the birds actually flying up through the scene, Watts
rounded up hundreds of white pigeons. Since all they needed
to do was move through the frame very quickly, the impostor
pigeons were able to pass convincingly as seagulls.
For the establishing shot of the fictional Republic of Hatay
in the Middle East Mark Sullivan and the matte department
created the striking image of a city at dusk. While Sullivan's
painting of the German castle was an extension of a real castle,
this nonexistent city was created entirely in silhouette with
cutout buildings and telephone poles made from photo-etched
brass and sheet aluminum. "We grouped the brass and aluminum
pieces together in forced perspective about twenty feet deep
and sprayed them black," Sullivan explained. "Then we pumped
in a lot of smoke and backlit it which created a pretty realistic
effect that was shot by Wade Childress and Jo Carson. To bring
life to the silhouettes, we added a matte painting that created
the appearance of fill light inside the shadows and rim light
on the edges of the buildings. I also painted in the sky,
and in a couple of passes we put in some smoke coming out
of the chimneys and even a few animated birds flying across
the scene." Over the city shot appears a title identifying
the locale. Usually such a title would be added later in an
optical duping situation; but to avoid this extra generation,
the entire shot was created latent image with a holdout matte
bipacked in the camera. Then after the various silhouette
and painting passes were completed, Childress burned the text
into the final image.
126.96.36.199 THE TANK
Having freed Henry and Brody from the belly of the steel
beast, Indy fights it out atop the tank with Nazi officer
Vogel. Caught up in their scuffle neither man is aware that
the armored vehicle is heading straight for a cliff. When
the tank goes over the precipice, it appears that Indiana
Jones has indeed made his last crusade. "For obvious reasons,"
noted Mike McAlister, "the scene could not be done with a
real tank and a real cliff. Not only would they lose actors
if the tank did not stop at the right moment, but they also
did not want it to look like the tank was slowing down as
it got closer to the edge, which it would have had to do if
it were being shot for real. So we created the illusion of
a cliff by combining the full-scale tank footage with miniatures
and a matte painting. We started by picking a suitably flat
spot over in Spain where we could simulate a cliff edge. We
shot the scene with the actors on the tank just as if the
cliff were really there. During filming of the live-action,
the tank got closer and closer to our imaginary cliff line
and then continued right over." To complete these wide-angle
shots, a matte painting was added to create the precipice
itself. Then for other angles of the vehicle actually tumbling
over the edge and crashing into a ravine below, a quarter
scale miniature tank built by the Gibbs unit was filmed going
over a fifty-foot high cliff in Spain. Additional shots of
the tank plummeting into the chasm employed matte paintings
and a tank miniature shot against blue screen at ILM. Final
shots looking down on the chasm featured the miniature tumbling
into a rock quarry located near the effects facility.
Amazingly, Indy once again cheats death and rejoins his friends
at the edge of the cliff. With barely a moment to catch their
breath, the determined foursome race off to find the Grail
temple and block the Nazi pillage. Their quest takes them
to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon where they discover a mighty
temple carved into the face of a cliff. The initial long-distance
view of the full canyon was yet another Mark Sullivan matte
painting, augmented with a miniature set built by Paul Huston.
188.8.131.52 THE CHALLENGES
Once inside the temple Henry gets shot in the stomach and
Indy has no choice but to face the temple's three challenges.
The first, The Breath of God, requires a 'penitent man' to
pass. Indy grapples with this cryptic phrase as he walks down
a temple corridor and realizes a penitent man would get down
on his knees in prayer. Indy does so just in time to avoid
being killed by an array of circular blades that slice into
the passageway from the walls and ceiling. The blades themselves
were a combination of fully operational mock blades built
into the temple set and miniature blades blue screened in
by the ILM effects team.
Indy quickly disables the device and then moves on to a passageway
of stepping stones marked with individual letters. For this
second challenge, the Word of God, Indy deduces that he must
spell the name of God in order to proceed. However, when he
steps down on the stone marked with a letter 'J', for Jehovah,
the rock collapses beneath him and he nearly falls into an
enormous chasm below. Initially, the scene was filmed with
Harrison Ford stepping on the wrong stone and being attacked
by a big spider but the result wasn't satisfactory enough
and they came up with the a chasm underneath. In the scene,
the chasm was realized in a matte painting showing a view
from the bottom of the cavern looking up at the place where
Indy's foot has pushed through the floor. To create the shot,
a stuntman was filmed on a set built thirty feet above the
floor of the ILM main stage. The set represented a portion
of the ceiling of the cavern, or the underside of the floor
Indy is walking on, and was made to look like it was constructed
from inlaid stones. The camera was positioned on the floor
of the stage looking up to get the correct angle on the stuntman's
foot crashing through. "On the wall behind the set," Sullivan
said, "I placed a background painting depicting the wall of
the cave so that as the stuntman's foot fell through, we could
also film debris and dirt falling away from him. The painting
was done on a large canvas, fifteen feet wide and forty feet
high, that was erected vertically in the main stage. This
shot was actually added late in our schedule and I had to
do the painting in a hurn, so I literally threw buckets of
paint onto the canvas and smeared it around with brooms. Since
the background was supposed to be dark and mysterious, it
did not need a lot of detail." Once this live-action plate
was filmed latent image, it was incorporated into a matte
painting of the rest of the cavern. In separate passes, foreground
miniatures were shot to add cobwebs and support pillars for
the 'safe' stones in the ceiling. To complete the illusion,
matte paintings of aerial haze and light streams were double-exposed
into the shot.
Indy manages to catch himself before he falls into the cavern.
Quickly he realizes his error, spells out Jehovah on the correct
stones and then proceeds on to face the final test. The Path
of God involves a narrow tunnel that leads out to a ledge
overlooking a chasm, with no apparent way to cross over. The
riddle tells Indy that he must make a 'leap of faith' so he
slowly, and with great trepidation, steps out into the void.
To his astonishment his foot lands on something solid, yet
he appears to be standing in midair. As Indy proceeds to walk
across the abyss to a ledge on the other side, the camera
swings to the right and reveals the trick, Indy is walking
on a bridge painted to match the rock on the opposite cliff
face, thereby making it invisible from his original vantage
point. The camouflaged bridge was a Spielberg inspiration.
"I thought it would be interesting if somebody hundreds of
years ago painted a false perspective on a bridge that matched
the terrain two hundred feet below in color and texture. Of
course, thinking the idea up and having it sketched was the
easy part. We never knew for certain if it would work until
ILM got involved and made it happen."
"The leap of faith shot was an example of a scene that could
not exist without the use of special effects," McAlister said.
"When the shot was first conceived, there was great discussion
in England on how to do it and Douglas Slocombe, the director
of photography, was pretty sure he could come up with something
there that would work. But Elliot Scott was very worried about
whether or not they could accomplish it practically. Also,
it would have been much too expensive to build a full-size
set because the sequence only involved four or five shots.
So the buck was passed to us early on, and I was sure, that
if anyone could accomplish it, we could, partly because we
would have more control over the elements."
ILM's solution to the leap of faith dilemma was to use a
combination of matte paintings and miniatures. The first shot
in the sequence was a matte painting by Yusei Uesugi. It was
the basic bottomless pit shot, looking down the side of an
enormous rock cliff that just goes on and on into darkness.
Since this was supposed to be Indy's point of view, his feet
are visible in the frame. The feet and the rock that they
are standing on were miniatures built by Paul Huston. They
found some small boots about one-third the size of the real
boots used by Harrison Ford, and positioned them over a miniature
rock placed in front of the painting. Then they puppeteered
them a little bit so they would not look like stiff shoes.
The remainder of the leap of faith shots involved a model
of the bridge, nine feet tall by thirteen feet wide, that
was carved by Huston out of green styrofoam. To paint the
bridge, the camera was placed in the starting position of
the shot so that Huston could view the model from the same
angle as the camera. "In the start position of the shot,"
said McAlister, "the camera was at a very high angle looking
down at the bridge and the cliff below. Paul looked through
the camera and first sketched on the bridge the detail that
he saw below. If, for instance, there were certain rock formations
way down low in the abyss, he painted those same formations
on the bridge so that through the lens the bridge appeared
to blend in with those formations. As long as we photographed
the bridge from the same angle that Paul painted it from,
it was impossible to tell that the bridge was there." To facilitate
the painting process, 35mm Kodacolor print film was loaded
into the Vistavision camera. As Huston painted, stills were
shot every hour and developed at a nearby one-hour photo store,
enabling an on-going assessment of the work in progress.
The illusion of invisibility is broken immediately when the
camera moves off its initial axis. Once all the lines and
textures on the bridge no longer match up with those on the
cliff wall behind it, the nature of the bridge becomes fully
evident. This camera move, crucial to the success of the illusion,
was actually determined many months earlier during live-action
shooting on the ILM blue screen stage. "We shot Harrison Ford
against a blue screen long before we built the miniature bridge,"
McAlister noted. "We did a shot of him stepping out into supposed
midair, realizing he is on something solid and then starting
to take a few steps forward. I had to imagine as well as I
could the move that we would ultimately do on the miniature
and then make that move on Harrison. It was important that
the perspective change on Harrison match the perspective change
we would later do on the miniature. In a way, it made sense
to shoot Harrison first because then we could conform our
miniature shoot to whatever restrictions we had on the live-action."
Since Ford was filmed in a blue screen environment, he did
not have a shadow, which was clearly needed since a strong
shaft of light was streaming into the finished scene. To create
the shadow, a miniature puppet figure was photographed on
the miniature bridge. A stop-motion puppet was positioned
on the bridge right where the blue screen element was going
to be composited and then imitated Ford's movements. They
did one pass with the puppet on the bridge and then one of
the bridge itself. Later they split-screened the puppet out
of the shot, leaving only its shadow. Then they matted Harrison
in and he suddenly had his shadow. Indy successfully reaches
the ledge on the other side of the abyss and tosses a handful
of dirt onto the bridge to aid those who are following him.
"This shot was created by first filming Harrison on a small
mockup of the ledge that was constructed at the studio in
England. Then on a black stage we shot handfuls of dirt being
tossed onto a cloaked platform built in the shape of the bridge.
We found the take that best matched the plate of Harrison
pretending to throw gravel, then projected the live-action
into the miniature and matted in the dirt falling onto the
184.108.40.206 DONOVAN'S DEATH
For the death scene of the film's villain, Donovan, Lucas
and Spielberg played with an idea that was originally explored
for the opening of the ark in Raiders. The idea was that all
the Germans at present would be disintegrated, with their
skin being rotten and falling off their faces and then with
their bones being turned into dust. Unfortunately, the technology
at the time could not support such a venture and the idea
was dropped. Inspired by this, Boam wrote a scene where Donovan
was supposed to age in a matter of seconds and wither away
until he is only skeletal dust. The effect, tagged at ILM
as 'Donovan's Destruction', was considered common enough for
the special effects of the late 80s but was given a different
wrinkle by Spielberg. "I would not agree to Donovan's destruction
unless it could all be done on camera in one continuous shot,"
he stated. "I just did not want to do a series of cutaways
so that the person could be advanced in makeup. We've all
seen that, and I think people do have a level of expectation
with these movies. They expect to see certain things that
have not been done before. Also, the minute they know ILM
is involved; they have a very high expectation that the people
up there will somehow top themselves. So things like having
the decomposition in one shot are important, I think the ILM
crew would be disappointed in me if I did not offer them a
challenge like that."
To meet the Spielberg challenge, Mike McAlister and his team
had to incorporate three different approaches. First, Julian
Glover spent three days to shoot the needed scenes. It began
with six takes with progressively older make up, then another
day with inflating pads taped to his forehead and cheekbones.
As these were pumped full of air, his eyes seemed to recede
into their sockets. To make him grow instant long gray hair,
he was fitted with a wig into which the hair was drawn back
mechanically. Then the film was run backwards at higher speed.
Three motion-controlled puppet heads were filmed showing Donovan
in advancing stages of decomposition. Then to blend the heads
together so they appeared to age seamlessly, a variation of
the computer 'morfing' technique pioneered on Willow was employed.
"When Donovan first starts aging," said makeup effects supervisor
Stephan Dupuis, "you see him from behind as his hair grows
long. That initial shot was done in England. Then they cut
back to a reverse shot over Elsa's shoulder. That's where
we came in with Donovan already aged slightly. We took a head
cast of Julian Glover and made a latex head built on top of
a torso. Inside this head were motion control mechanics designed
by Kelly Lepkowsky. The first head went through programmed
moves that made Donovan's cheeks suck in and his nose go back
so that he looked a little like the Phantom of the Opera.
When that head reached its most decayed position, we took
a cast of it and made a second head. We attached that head
to the same motion-controlled rig and made it age even further.
Donovan's nose went completely in, the eyelids shriveled up
and went inside his head, and the mouth curled back even more.
At that point he looked like a mummy, and from this we cast
the third head."
The first two heads had simple foam latex skins, but the
third one was more complex because it had to shrivel down
to a skeleton. "We started with a gray skull underneath,"
Dupuis continued. "Over that I needed material that would
shrivel up under heat like saran wrap. I looked at different
materials and finally just took styrofoam cups and melted
them in a solvent until I got liquid. Then I painted this
liquid on the inside of the mold for the third head. When
that dried I had a very thin plastic skin that served as the
outside skin on the face. Between this skin and the gray skull
underneath we placed pieces of Shrink hard-a plastic that
shrinks when you heat it. We cut out pieces in worm-like configurations
and pasted them on the inside of the skin so that when the
face was heated up, those things would shrivel and curl and
open up the skin. They looked basically like a bunch of maggots,
pretty gross, but on the screen you do not really see that
much of it."
All three heads were placed on the same motion control rig
so that they would go through the exact same motions in the
frame. "We needed to have the three heads in perfect register
for editing," McAlister explained. "As Donovan disintegrated,
we wanted to be able to cut from the first head to the second
at the best possible point, and then from the second head
to the third. By having all three heads go through the exact
same motion in the frame, we could then choose any point to
make the transitions between them." Once the puppeteered heads
were filmed, the next step was to blend them together seamlessly
using digital imaging processing. "We first used the morfing
technique during Willow for the transformation of Raziel from
a goat to an ostrich to a turtle to a tiger and then to a
human being. On Willow they had the benefit of cutaways, plus
the animals were so dissimilar in shape that no one could
say how they would actually transform. But for Indiana Jones
we had to transform a human face, something that people are
very familiar with, and we had to make our shots look as realistic
as possible. The other major difference was that on Willow
they only morfed individual elements that were then composited
optically. But for Indy we set out to create an image that
was almost completely composited inside the computer so that
what we scanned back out was essentially the final shot. As
far as I know, this is the first time anyone has ever accomplished
this type of digital compositing for a full-screen, live-action
To perfect the transition, McAlister first tested optical
cross- dissolves at the points he thought the head changes
should take place. Once the transition points were firmly
established, the original footage was then scanned into a
Pixar image-processing computer and translated into digital
format so that computer artists could begin the time-consuming
process of making the transitions appear seamless. "Basically,
we had to pretend that the picture was on a sheet of rubber,"
explained digital compositor Les Dittert. "With morfing we
were able to grab part of that picture and stretch it. For
instance, if we had to line up the outside of the second head
with the same frame number of the third head, we used the
computer to shift around this imaginary sheet of rubber so
that the edges lined up perfectly. By doing that, we were
able to correct any misregistration on the photography as
well as line up features within the faces. We could also control
the speed of the dissolve to different areas of the frame.
For instance, we could make the nose of the second head come
through before the rest of the face. Something like that would
be hard to do in a normal optical. In optical you can realign
for one thing, like the tip of the nose, but then the side
of the head would probably be off."
Making the morfing even more complicated was the fact that
the second and third head imagery had to be placed directly
over the first head. In the scene, the camera watches Donovan
decompose from over Elsa's shoulder. As a result, the first
head was shot on a torso with a double for Alison Doody in
the foreground and a portion of the chamber set in the rear.
The double was then sent home and the other two heads were
filmed without her. "The background and hair of the first
head were used through the entire shot," Dittert said, "and
the other faces were mapped over the first one. That presented
problems because the last head was practically a skeleton
and it was a lot smaller than the first head. If we had just
matted the last head in, audiences would have seen what we
called the 'peek-a-boo effect' where the first head would
have peeked out on one side or the other because it was bigger.
So we had to do a little face-lift and pull the whole face
over." Because Donovan's clothing also had to age, some miniature
clothes were shot on a fourth torso puppet, also motion-controlled.
"We had two clothes elements," said computer graphics animator
Doug Smythe, "the second more deteriorated than the first.
Both had to be mapped over Donovan's upper body and shifted
into position so they would not expose the torso mechanism.
Those were shot against blue screen and scanned into the computer.
Then the blue screen was extracted and the clothes were morfed
to make them fit where they had to go."
To complete the effect McAlister needed some information
on how to rapidly deteriorate clothing without using dangerous
acids. He called an association of dry cleaners, who referred
him to a clothing damage expert in Utah. Utah sent them to
Mary Baker, who was employed at the textile research facility
at the Smithsonian Institute. McAlister explained his situation
and asked for any advise. The reply that came over the phone
sounded like a joke, "Have you tried ILM? They can do anything."
After a chuckle, McAlister responded, "Ma'am, we are ILM."
As it turned out, Mary Baker was involved in preserving Yoda
for the Smithsonian's traveling exhibit on Star Wars. Eventually
she came to ILM to train the crew in the handling and use
of the acids involved.
Once the clothing and the faces were successfully merged
in the computer, the whole shot was digitally composited and
scanned back out in Vistavision format. Ultimately, this image
was not the final composite because it had to be reduced in
optical to four-perf projection format. At that time, an additional
smoke element was incorporated to help it match other shots
in the Grail chamber.
Donovan's destruction is complete when Indy pushes the skeletal
remains away from a screaming Elsa and the bones fly against
a chamber wall and shatter. To create this effect, a skeleton
was assembled from bones made out of a brittle polymer. These
hollow bones were then filled with fuller's earth and a ground
glass product called Cab-I-sil and hung together by wires
on a trapeze-like device. "Donovan's skeleton looked like
a giant marionette," Dupuis recalled, "which we swung into
a mockup of a cave wall. All the bones were supposed to release
on impact, but we had to do several takes because there was
always one bone that would not detach and would still be floating
in midair after the rest had crashed into the wall. We finally
had our pyro expert, Bob Finley, attach explosive squibs to
the wires on the trapeze. When the skeleton hit the wall,
he pressed a button and all the wires broke on cue. The shot
was so quick and there was so much dust and smoke in the shot
that the wires were easily concealed." Equal to Belloq's explosion
in Raiders Donovan's Destruction was one of the film's most
thrilled scenes and at the same time marked a technological
breakthrough in effects work.
220.127.116.11 HEALING DAD
Armed with the authentic Grail, Indy races back through the
temple and pours water from the sacred vessel onto his father's
mortal wound. The Grail proves its healing powers when the
elder Jones' wound mends right before Indy's eyes. The healing
of Henry Jones was made in two cuts. The first was a make-up
effect involving baking soda and vinegar. The makeup had a
high content of baking soda so that when the vinegar was poured
onto it, the baking soda fizzed up like hydrogen peroxide.
In the second cut, the wound appears to be foaming up even
more and when Indy pours more water on it the wound washes
away revealing healed flesh. For this shot, the effects team
simply sprinkled baking soda on the actor's skin, dumped vinegar
on it until it got real foamy, turned the camera on and then
washed the foam away with more vinegar. It was shot more or
less live-action style with a four-perf camera and did a bunch
of takes until they got one that looked right.
"The most common challenge in effects is not to come up with
brand new techniques, but to find new ways of using old ones,"
comments Micheal McAlister, visual effects supervisor for
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." McAlister was one of
the four filmmakers who won an Oscar for the special effects
in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
"All effects are geared to the story," McAlister says. "They
enable it to be told the way Steven wants to tell it." He
reveals that altogether 80 shots in the film involve an eclectic
variety of visual effects, including blue screen, matte paintings,
and creature puppet effects combined with computer graphics
in a process he calls "morphing technique," in which there
is a metamorphosis of one image changing and blending into
The creation of the visual effects began during principal
photography with the filming of backgrounds and blue screen
live- action photography. Similar to the building of the soundtracks
and the editing of the film, the effects are accomplished
during post production.
In the movie, Indy must interpret a series of riddles to
avoid certain painful death, and the object of these riddles
was usually carried out with special effects.
"Many of the effects in this film broaden the scope of danger
in a scene," McAlister states, "and some, like the aerial
chase sequence, couldn't have been done without visual effects."
'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' has a collection of
all the highlights any sound editor could dream of: explosions,
fire, gunfights, earthquakes, windstorms, and chases in all
sorts of different vehicles," sound designer Ben Burtt says.
"I could go to my sound effects library catalogs and no matter
what page I turned to, there would be an appropriate sound
for a scene in the film."
Although Burtt has built a large Indiana Jones sound library
since working on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (which brought
him an Oscar in 1982), he states that he and his associates
always look for original sound material for each film. For
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," special new recordings
were made for such sounds as horses, crashes, aircraft, a
tank, and artillery. Several hundred sound effects were collected
on 41 tapes with an average of 20 effects on each tape - around
800 in all.
After Burtt began his work by categorizing the sounds he
planned to use, he started to collect them, on one occasion
riding in a biplane upside down while recording. Traveling
to find the best sounds possible, Burtt attended the destruction
of a wind turbine over 300 feet high to record sounds to be
utilized for crash scenes. Gunshots and ricochets were created
and recorded in isolated locations in Utah and Texas.
The recording of a styrofoam cup at a family picnic became
the basis for a roaring inferno after Burtt multiplied the
sound at different frequencies with a computer. "The digital
process of manipulating sounds-stretching them, shrinking
them, or changing the pitch-is one of the big steps forward
in the last ten years. Most of the things we now do with a
Synclavier computer we used to do with tape and cutting."
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is being released in
selected theatres in a special sound format called 70mm Full-Field
Sound. "With this format we can move sounds not only from
front to back in the theatre but from side to side," Burtt
"A film like this is brought to life with sound, which dramatically
enhances and brings a natural dimension to the special effects,"
The Last Crusade was being released in selected theatres
in a special sound format called 70mm Full-Field Sound. "With
this format we can move sounds not only from front to back
in the theatre but from side to side," Burtt said. "A film
like this is brought to life with sound, which dramatically
enhances and brings a natural dimension to the special effects."