Friday, May 29, 2009

The Hallway to.........somewhere?

First, thanks for your continued comments about this blog.  Even though I've been hearing lost of applause each night while backstage on "Mama Mia," somehow I don't think it's intended for me.  So I'll take what I can from all of you enjoying this blog!

Here is a hallway which looks like it must be from the Robin Masters' estate.  Where to and why I don't know.

You can see the fake beams above going down the hallway.  These are called "headers" and act as masking for the lights and also to block the view of the catwalks above.

It's funny that my first 2 impressions of seeing these photos are:  1.  Wow, that was a lot of carpet we used!  and 2.  There isn't anyplace on this island you could now find (buy or rent) anything in these photos.                                                                                                                     I guess I've complained enough now about that subject.  A lot of those paintings were generic ones we used time and again.  They were really just prints with that stuff called "modge podge" trying to give them some depth or fake brush strokes. 

 The only real problem I see with trying to film in this hallway is that the camera would either have to be at one end following someone walking down the hallway away from the camera, or at the other end watching someone walk towards the camera.  If the camera wanted to follow someone walking down the hall, one side or the other of the walls would have to be removed for the camera to track from the side.  Somehow, I don't think we would have done that!  Sometimes if the floor is uneven, 2"x12" planks are put down so the camera dolly can roll smoothly for the shot.  They can also lay "dolly track" for more uneven terrain and also for smooth curves if needed.  This is usually done on exterior shots only. More popular now is the "hand held" shot where an operator has the (now much lighter or even video) camera in a harness and follows the character.  It gives a more realistic or "gritty" look to the action.  It's also a lot less time consuming in setting up a shot. I can't tell you how many carpets we had to clean, repair, or replace in locations we filmed because the camera dolly leaked oil onto the carpet!

Well, not much more I can think to say about this brilliant hallway except to answer your questions--especially where did the hallway go?

Aloha,  Rick

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mama Mia, I've been working hard!

Maybe that should read I've been working hard on "Mama Mia," the touring ABBA musical.  I went to the bank last week and waved my first paycheck in over a year to the tellers (who thankfully all know me).  Of course this has nothing to do with Magnum, but it is the reason I haven't been posting lately.  The show is over this next Saturday and has been a lot of fun backstage with this Broadway touring company.  Besides tearing clothing off of people and cramming them into new costumes, I get to polish shoes and steam 9 wedding suits 8 times a week.  College finally paid off!

I'm not sure if I posted this picture before, but it does symbolize people as well as a TV set--things aren't always what they appear to be.  Ok, back to work........most set walls are made up of "flats."  In the theatre they are made of 1x3's laying flat with canvas (actually unbleached muslin) stretched over them.  In TV (and some film) they  are usually 1x3 (sometimes 1x2) on edge and covered with 1/8" "door skin", also known as luan, also known as 1/8 ply.  I did talk about this in an earlier post, but now an earlier post can mean months ago.  You can see how simple this method actually is, but also how well it works for easy set up / take down as well as versatility and reuse.  Remember the wall "off sets" when walls are joined overlapping that sort of yell "IT'S A SET" in case you didn't know.  Even the permanent sets on Magnum were built this way, although they weren't braced with these temporary steel braces or "jacks."  A lot of this terminology came from the theatre / stage use.  Of course the flats can be covered with plaster, texture, wallpaper, or that ever popular "V-groove" paneling so popular back then.

Since I digressed in the beginning (and there may be more of this as the photos are just about gone), I tried to link this blog into my"LOST" bio--something I didn't know that I even had.  It's not to discuss that show, but maybe they will enjoy some of the general information I've been able to pass along about television production in general and not be sued by Disney for divulging "sacred" LOST info into cyberspace (like I know any).

I see I have picked up a few new followers (WELCOME and thanks!) even though I haven't posted much lately--but there is still a lot of info here to read.  I really do need to get going on the promised sound stage floorplan.  I'm afraid it's not going to be all that detailed or even to scale. I suspect that some of you could probably draw a better one with all of your knowledge of the show better than I can.  At some point in the next few postings, the well of photos is going run dry.  I keep hoping there are more set photos stored away as negatives, but I have a few termite repair battles to fight before I can spend a lot of time crawling around looking for them.

Hope you all have had a great 3 day weekend and took a little time to remember what it's supposed to be about--even as I grilled hamburgers on my one day off this week.  Unfortunately it looks like there will be a lot more days off again soon!  Maybe I can put my new found shoe shining skills into practice?

Aloha,  Rick

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hard to believe this is my 68th post.  I don't have a whole lot of pictures left--maybe I'll just start all over?  I can't even make stuff up because Marco will expose me.  I could always turn it into one of those blogs where I tell you what I had for breakfast and what kind of weather we have--but even those subjects are the same each day!

                                                                                                                                                           In the meantime, here is another mystery set.  I sure must have liked it because there are a lot of photos.  I seem to remember it has something to do with a house of ill repute, but I'm not exactly sure.  I am sure that it's pretty tacky and that's my walnut screen out of my entry hall--also that it's a set on stage.  I can't even think of anything clever to say about it.  It could be because I just repotted about 2 dozen palm trees in the hot sun and I'm overheated.  These kind of sets didn't come along very often--ones where there was no specified or defined look and I could have a little creativity.  Although 20 years later, I'm not sure what is very creative about this set?

Aloha,  Rick

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Omega Station (see Mike's last comment question)

Given that I tend to give long answers and that someone else might be interested, Mike had asked about using the Omega Station in Haiku Valley on Oahu for locations.  I don't have any photos, but I do have a little info--although please correct me as you probably know more if you've done research.  The Omega Station was run by the Coast Guard and was sort of an almost science fiction, 1950's (?) state of the art concept.  Long before satellite tracking, ships and submarine's needed to know where they were on the planet.  This facility generated a huge, ultra-low frequency that could be tracked by ships around the world.  I think it might have been used with 1 or 2 others somewhere for triangulation or something.  Anyway, this large, windowless building built in a (then) isolated bowl shaped valley which used the natural contour like a giant dish.  Somehow they managed to string a cable across the valley and suspend this device above the bowl shape for broadcasting.  The cable is gone, but the "stairs" are still there-- which are actually a 3,000 ft. ladder that makes my palms sweat just looking at it.  It was restored for public use by the public, but there are a few "liability issues" like getting blown off it while climbing or falling a couple of thousand feet down.  

Anyway, there was a bit of secrecy about this place and it was really isolated with a small road up to it.  The very first thing I ever worked on in film was a really crappy movie called "Vacation in Hell" or something like that.  I carved a giant pig statue as they were allowed to cover 2 sides of the Omega Station with fake steps and turn the whole thing into an Aztec Temple in the jungle.  It was probably used at some point in 5-0 and Magnum, but that was before my time.  In the mean time, they built the most expensive freeway ever built through Haiku valley in the 80's and 90's.  It took all of the 80's and 90's to build it. I saw a thing on the History Channel las week that H-3 is considered the "most beautiful" freeway in the world.  We just called it the freeway to nowhere since it connects Pearl Harbor with the marine base in Kaneohe.  Anyway, one of the concerns early on was that the radiation from the Omega Station would be harmful.  At one point they were going to enclose the freeway after it emerges from the giant tunnels on the windward side at a couple thousand feet up with steel mesh.  Well, by the time they got that far, they didn't need the station anymore so the mesh idea went away. 

     I do remember being told that when they used to film there, you could stand on any hill and hold a fluorescent tube in your hand up in the air and it would light up!  So I'm sure there was something to the radiation concerns.

I went through the building remains a couple of years ago on "LOST."  Very sad.  Vandals had destroyed all of this wonderful old "high tech" equipment and controls that had been left behind.  Given that the station generated it's own power to create this huge signal, all of the major copper and reusable things had come out of there.  However, it still retained a lot of controls and guages, switches, and things that had mostly been smashed.  We were able to use some of the damaged things on "LOST" but had to return them since they technically still belonged to the government.  There is just a very small road in and nothing is marked, but there in the middle of this jungle is this huge old building that looks like a Jurrassic Park set.  If you have a death wish and want to see the station from above, you can go slow while on the H-3 while up about 2,000 feet in 70 mile an hour traffic and look down and there it is.  I'm sure it would cost more to tear it down that would be practical so it just sits there.  When I was filming there with "LOST", we didn't actually use the station, but another old wooden warehouse building located further up the hill from there.  They may have since used it, but I haven't watched the show in 2 years.  Are they really battling aliens on Mars now?

So, once again, I turned a simple question into a PhD. thesis, but that's just me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Special Effects, Dust Aging and Jack Faggard

Well, as usual, no idea what this set was supposed to be.  Was this another part of the WWII Chinese Jewish Synagogue set?  Jack Faggard was an old time Hollywood special effects man and about as nice as anyone in this business ever is--not to mention RARE in this business.  He always had a story or a kind word and always kept his cool--which is good since he was also in charge of the explosives!  Ok, so he blew out the windows and Christmas tree of that family one time, the rest of the time he was great.  He did the bullet hits, explosions, fog,  smoke, fires (from entire buildings to camp fires), and even tiki torches because gas was used.  Normally the paint department handled "dust aging" which is blowing (usually) super fine diatomaceous earth on everything.  Special effects also does spider webs which are usually made by spinning and blowing rubber cement and then dusting with talcum powder.  Oh no, are there no secrets left? So it's quite a diverse department.  One of the guys he trained went on to win an Emmy on "LOST" for special effects, Archie Ahuna.  Jack was not one of those people who didn't like to share, he was really good about teaching and showing everyone.
     So another mystery set turned into yet another explanation / education.  That one photo with the dramatic lighting is one of those "accidents" that happen once in awhile with photography and is suitable for framing!  I think that might have just been work lights or someone left the door open.  You can see why they like smoke or fog in the air for some scenes.  Also at rock concerts now that no one can smoke in the arenas, they blow out fog so the lights show up better.  Notice no one is wearing a mask!

Aloha, Rick

P.S.  The latest photo is of me on the "LOST slave ship at the end of the 1st season.  I'm the one with the flesh.  How prophetic it became as time went on with that show..........  Those chains became much shorter!