Saturday, August 29, 2009

Special Effects

Shri. Rajagopalan Nair ( K.P.R.Nair) was taking classes in special effects cinematography which to me was a fascinating and exciting subject as you can magically create wonders on the screen by employing a few tricks. But a majority of the students were not much interested in experimenting and learning the special effects process. Myself, Murthy and Jaiswal were keen on knowing more of the subject and used to attend his classes regularly with rapt attention. Though we had one or two hours of classes per week, we were allowed to go to Nair saab's room anytime and fiddle with the equipments there. He used to answer our questions and explained the intricacies of special effects cinematography. His room was full of old and antiquated equipments in various conditions of disrepair.

There was Bell and Howell High speed camera which used to run up to 200 -250 frames with which we tried some high speed shots. We took an old miniature model of a building from the Prabhat days, rigged it with some wires and debris, strategically placed burning rags and recreated a burning building catching fire and collapsing. The things I learned there along with help from the book "The technique of special effects cinematography" by Raymond Fielding was very useful in my career afterwards. In many films I did my own masking shots (double roles), in camera dissolves, glass shots, title effects etc using the reliable Mitchell camera.

Also we had the rare opportunity of using the Front Projection system, the only one of its kind in India. In all other places only Back projection was being used which was giving poor image quality and restricted the lighting to be done from the side s only to avoid it spilling on the screen. As the front projection system with its glass beaded screen and front coated mirror produced excellent results, people from Bombay film industry used to come down for their front projection shots. Nair Saab taught us how to set up the partial mirror and aligning the camera and the projector properly so that the photographed object itself will cover its own shadow, which is a very tricky one. Unfortunately after leaving the Institute, I could not try front projection as that system was not available elsewhere in India. Though I have done many back projection shots, I feel that front projection results were much superior ones!

In his spare time Nair saab can be seen in his room, tinkering with some equipment or other. In those days he was also trying to build a subtitling machine by himself. He later on succeeded in making one such machine which I was told that the National Film Archives utilized for subtitling purposes.

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