After generating some critical buzz, the low-to-mid-budget superhero flick Chronicle lit up the box office to the tune of $22 million last weekend with its mix of found-footage action and unique special effects. But how exactly did a movie with a $12 million budget pull off some of the coolest flying shots ever put to film? To hear the movie's visual-effects guru tell it, those awesome scenes didn't come easy.
Simon Hansen told MTV he had to build his own rig—affectionately called the "Wheel of Death" by the cast—to pull off the shots where the super-powered teens took flight, trying to balance a unique effect with a decidedly tight budget.
"I knew it wasn't necessarily about the budget. It was about the technique to get flying to work. I spent a lot of time analyzing footage of skydiving and looking how bodies move in free motion," he said. "As a result, I ended up designing a big hamster-wheel rig that the subject would be strapped to in the center, and he could be spun within this rig, which could turn itself. You'd get two axes out of it. The actors called it the Wheel of Death because you actually get strapped into this thing and a motor spins you around while the wheel is actually turning. You can do full-on McTwist-type movements. What I tried to get away from was a situation where you pick someone up on wires and move them from one side of a soundstage to another in front of a green screen."
Hansen said he was proud of how the final product turned out, noting that even some big-budget flicks can still miss the mark when it comes to airborne scenes.
"I'd been very frustrated, even with big-budget films and how they've done flying," he told MTV. "Some of the bad examples, not to knock anyone, Armageddon's weightless sequence, for example, was a movie that had a lot of money and didn't get it right. Lots of films don't get it right."
Heck, considering the awesome guerilla marketing tack they took before the film opened, I'm surprised they didn't just strap on some mini-jetpacks and let the actors go.