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Technology In Invisible Man And Hollow Man Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2733 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The classic 1933 film ‘The Invisible Man’ based on a science fiction novel by H G Wells of the same name is a story which follows the life and demise of Dr. Jack Griffin as he battles psychological and physical effect of an invisibility drug while trying to find a cure to return him to normal visibility. The film was directed by James Whale and starring Claude Rains and is considered to be one of the greatest of a series of films called the Universal horror films produced in the ‘Golden Era’ 1930’s of the Universal Studios. The Invisible Man was a phenomenal success, despite being realised during the Great Depression, and produced several sequels. The success of the film also launched the career of leading actor Claude Rains.

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‘Hollow Man’ released in the year 2000, Director by Paul Verhoeven and starting Elisabeth Shue & Kevin Bacon is the modern day equivalent also inspired by H. G. Wells ‘The Invisible Man’ A scientist develops a serum which renders the flesh of any living life form invisible. After testing the serum on a variety of different animals he decides to inflict it upon himself but after efforts to return him to permanent visibility fail he and his colleagues struggle to find a cure before the mental repercussions take their toll.

Despite being inspired and based on H.G Wells original novel, although based in different eras, both films contain many paralleling sequences depicting the various elements of the invisible characters different states. Some key examples of this can be seen when the character turns from totally visible to invisible or visa versa. Sometimes an invisible character is wearing visible clothes and face masks which interact with other cast members and the environment in shot. Both films helped push the boundaries of the special effects available in their respective eras and presented new and exciting challenges to the special effects artist in charge of producing them and it is these effect with can be credit to the susses of both films.

John P. Fulton and Frank D. Williams are the men directly responsible for creating the ground breaking effects seen in the ‘The Invisible Man’ film. On the 23th of July 1916 F. D. Williams filed a US patent entitled ‘Method of Taking Motion Pictures’ which detailed a method of “taking motion pictures, and is especially adapted to produce a picture showing two or more objects in relative positions in which they have not actually been placed”

(F. D. Williams, 1916. Method of taking motion pictures. U.S. Pat.1,273,435)

This process was used and adapted as a base to create the majority of effects which illustrated a partly clothed or bandaged invisible character in the film. To achieve these effect sequences Rains or a double wore a tight fitting black velvet suit underneath any clothes which were to remain visible moving around the scene. The actor’s performance was then filmed on a black velvet backdrop; a second background plate was filmed and a double exposure was then used to seamlessly combine the two shoots together, this resulted in the black elements from the first shot, the valet suit and backdrop being replaced by the background film in the second shoot. This is a very early version of an effect today know as ‘green screen’, in modern times an array of different colours, most commonly green, blue and black are used depending on the backdrop and the colour of other elements in the scene for example if the screen is green heavy or an actor’s costume includes green, a blue backdrop can be used.

After the film was finished Fulton admitted the most difficult shot to achieve of the entire film was when the invisible man is seen to unwrap the bandages from around his head in front of a mirror. To create this sequences four different takes where used of the actor removing the bandages but with different parts of the set masked in black velvet. The first take was used to captor the surrounding walls and mirror’s frame but the mirror glass was masked out so it could be captured separately in the second take, the third was of the actors back unwrapping the bandages and the fourth of the actor performing the same unwrapping action but from the front. Each take needed to match in perceptive and viewpoint to enable them to be merged together into a single shoot.

(Now you see him:The Invisible man revealed, 2004. DVD. USA: Universal Studios)

A parallel can be draw to this sequence in ‘Hollow Man’ when efforts to restore the invisible scientist ‘Sebastian Caine’ played by ‘Kevin Bacon’ fail. His colleges make the decision to create Sebastian a synthetic face mask by pouring liquid latex over his head to help give him a visible presents.

“There was a lot of discussion about what had been done before in invisible man movies and Paul was very concerned we did not repeat all been done before” – Alec Gillis

(Fleshing out the hollow man, 2007. DVD. London: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

In the Hollow Man special features ‘The Mask’, Tom Woodruff, Jr. from Amalgamated says ‘our main drive was coming up with something that looked like Kevin Bacon but also looked like some crudely constructed mask’

(Fleshing out the hollow man, 2007. DVD. London: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The choice to use a latex mask molded to the actors face did indeed make bacon more recognisable to the audience which dose help further ground the entire effect. Unlike ‘The Invisible Man’ where bandages are wrapped around Rains head, disguising his characteristic features to the point where it could be anyone and inevitably allowing the director to cast doubles in some shots which is noticeable due to the double being taller than rains.

To a achieve the effect of liquid latex being poured and conforming around the actors face which would seemingly to appear out of thin air, The actors face was covered in green body paint which was later digital removed from the plate leaving only the latex. According to Alec Gills from Amalgamated Dynamics and Jonathan Erland of Composite Components, experts in green screen technology, a new type of body paint was developed which was used to actively turn Bacon into a walking green screen which in its self was a major development to allow the actor to be painted out of many scenes in the film. Many safety guidelines had to be followed in its creation, the paint had to be durable as well as being safe for actor Bacon to wear during the busy filming schedule. Green vacuum formed pieces of plastic were placed over the actors eyes to help protect them from scissors while eye holes were cut into the mask they also helped in the masking out of Bacon’s actual to allow the integrate of a 3D generated model of the inside of the latex mask to aid the illusion of a hollow interior.

(Now you see him:The Invisible man revealed, 2004. DVD. USA: Universal Studios)

Turning Bacon into his ‘walking green screen state’ meant he was able to physically act out all of his scenes even if he was in a fully indivisible state in the film because of high tech digital camera used in the filming were able to record their own movements, after a take was filmed the camera was able to automatically re-film the empty background set precisely based on the pre-recorded tilt pitch and pan data, because this generated an exact duplicate plate made the job of digital removal of Bacon far easier, this in turn allowed the cinematographer to create much more dynamic and interesting camera moves. This also provided bacons fellow actors a precise focus point in a scene which as something just not possible in ‘The Invisible Man’ as camera had to remain static and Rain was filmed on at black ground and composited back into the sequence later. Filming Bacon in the scene also supplied the special effects team with a great animatic and lighting reference to match any CG elements to.

A second paralleling sequence between the two films can be seen when the main character passes between the states of visible to invisible. In ‘Hollow Man’ after developing and successfully testing an invisibility serum on animal subjects, Sebastian decides to take his experiments to the next level, a human trail by inject himself with the serum which triggers the dramatic transformation to invisibility, although in reverse this effect sequence is also used in the last scene of ‘The Invisible Man’ when of Dr. Jack Griffin dies the invisibility which has plaged him thought out the film final wears off and his body becomes visible throw death.

As Griffin fiancée Flora sits down beside his bed the camera changes to an Answering Shoot, a technique used to show dialogue between two characters. The camera is moved to look over Flora’s left shoulder, although we the audience start to hear Griffins voice speak his last words we can see Flora is still in fact looking at a hollow night shirt tucked up in bed and an impression in the pillow where Griffin’s head ought to be. In this shoot the night shirt is seen subtly rising and falling to indicate breathing but this has not been animated in keeping with the words we can hear Griffin speaking.

After a brief close-up shot of Flora, the camera cuts back to a close up of Griffins imprint in the bed. Almost immediately the transformation takes place and this is the first time in the film the audience see Rains face and after a slow plan back the film ends.

“This was done directly in the camera, the pillow, the indentation and all was made of plaster and the blankets and sheets of papier-mâché, a slow long lap dissolve revealed a skeleton, a real by the way another lap dissolve replaced the skeleton with a roughly sculpted dummy which suggested the contours of the actor and a further series of dissolves each time using a slightly more finished dummy brought us to the real actor himself” – John P Fulton DVD commentary.

(The Invisible man, DVD 2004. DVD. USA: Universal Studios)

The potential problem with using this technique of layering full frames is if any other supposedly static object moves thought out any of frames the in the scene this will becomes very obvious. This is most notable when the corner of the bed sheet moves between the skull and full face transition. In contrast Hollow man is able to utilise many modern techniques for this transformation from visible to invisibility, most notably computer graphics.

In the equivalent scene actor Kevin Bacon character seemingly dissolve away; multiple different layers of human anatomy effectively dissolve from one layer to the next. His skin gives way to the layers of muscles, tendons, internal organs and eventually only an animated skeleton left thrashing around on the table for a short period before it too disappears. A scene only made possible by today standards by continually pushing the boundaries of computer graphics.

“Another thing that made it more difficult for us was the actual amount of data and amount of geometry we had to push though are system, we had to buy better and faster computers to actually handle it” – Scott Stokdyk, Digital Effects Supervisor

(Fleshing out the hollow man, 2007. DVD. London: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

This was a necessary step in the case of Hollow Man as unlike other CG characters generated for feature films which only require modelling the outer skin of a character, the team at Sony had to go to great lengths to produce all the different individual internal elements of the human body to achieve this effect sequence.

Before work on the CG character could begin preliminary research into human anatomy was carried out by the team who looked out medical journals and the work of Dr.Gunther von Hagens who painted a technique for preserving human tissue with polymer which is used in the Body Works exhibitions. The team then started R&D testing ways of adding animated controls to models of the human body capable of simulating not only the overall human body movements but also controlling all the individual elements that comprise of the human body. After Kevin Bacon was selected to play the lead role full body cyber scans were generated to match the 3D representation which allowed modelling supervisor Wayne Kennedy and the team to match his likeness as close as possible as .

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But While modelling techniques were still being developed the arising problems meant a separate department, pushing software development and plug-in creation. Modern films produced with digital technology aren’t as restrictive as in the analogue period, new software can be custom written for a specific task. The production team worked with Maya to accomplish the majority of 3D work used in the film as another advantage of the digital workflow, meant custom tools built for the studios pervious film ‘Stuart Little’ were adapted and applied where needed to Hollow man.

(Shay,E., 2000. Hollow Man: Disappearing Act.Cinefex,83, 111)

(more pictures to be added)

(conclusion be rewritten)

Although there have only been two scenes discussed, many parallels can be drawn between the two films, in the way the audiences react to them, and the effects used. Although due mostly to technological and creative advancement, there are also many differences in how the effects were achieved. One thing can be said for both films though, at the time of their release both films were at the cutting of technology. Keeping the audiences at the edge of their seats in true horror fashion.

‘The Invisible Man’ used many of the original techniques, which became the basis for modern cinema and would evolve and go on to be used in ‘Hollow Man’ almost seven decades later. Techniques such as ‘the Williams process’ or travelling mattes as they are also known. These processes would go on to become green and blue screen techniques used in today’s film industry.

Like many of the horror classics from the analogue period, ‘The Invisible Man’ has become very dated. The effects were believable at its time of release they have become less so as the years have gone by. In some scenes the effects are quiet comical in execution by today’s standards. The techniques used were also not fool proof, even at the time of production. The use of different lighting set ups used to achieve some composited effects, caused instances of ghosting where the set was visible through the character. These factors have lead to the film becoming less convincing as the years have passed.

The same advancement in technologies, has also meant that films such as ‘Hollow Man’ could be produced reaching new levels of realism. Firmly putting audiences back in the grasps of fear. It took the team at Sony Picture Imageworks over 2 years to create the visual effects used in ‘Hollow Man’ with the vast development of computers, plugin’s and software advancements. The finished result keeps ‘Hollow Man’ on par with films being released a decade later. With further developments in technology and computer generated imagery, it can only mean bigger, better things to come. Keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.

Sussce of film made 7 more


(The Invisible man, DVD 2004. DVD. USA: Universal Studios)

(Now you see him:The Invisible man revealed, 2004. DVD. USA: Universal Studios)

(Shay,E., 2000. Hollow Man: Disappearing Act.Cinefex,83, 111)

(Fleshing out the hollow man, 2007. DVD. London: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

(F. D. Williams, 1916. Method of taking motion pictures. U.S. Pat.1,273,435)

Rickitt, R., 2000. Special Effects the history and technique. London: Virgin Books



Hollow Man: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0164052/


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