Hollywood's eye-boggling creations Science Center reveals the tricks filmmakers come up with

May 23, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Remember the Eagle 5 Flying Winnebago that filled the big screen in "Spaceballs"? It's no bigger than a dining room table centerpiece. How about the Terror Dog from "Ghostbusters"? He could have come off the shelf from Toys R Us.

Both are specially created miniatures, shot to appear larger-than-life by slow-motion photography.

This is just one of the tricks of the trade of modern-day moviemaking revealed in "Special Effects: The Science of Movie and Television Magic" opening Saturday at the Maryland Science Center. Using models, drawings and, most of all, video monitors showing clips from the films themselves, the exhibit, which runs through Labor Day, provides a glimpse of the ingenuity and technology that brought some of the more imaginative recent celluloid figures to life.

The exhibit, organized by the California Museum of Science and Technology, is the biggest traveling exhibit ever mounted by the Maryland Science Center, containing more than 100 objects and occupying some 7,000 square feet on parts of two floors of the building.

It is also an exhibit for which Science Center officials have big hopes.

"We're very optimistic it will draw families into the building," executive director Paul A. Hanle said at a preview of the exhibit yesterday. "It appeals to the sense of illusion and fantasy in all of us. And it allows kids to see that science and technology is important and fun at the same time."

The exhibit -- the opening of which will be highlighted by a number of special demonstrations throughout the day Saturday and Sunday -- is divided into sections looking at various special effects techniques, including animation, projection, makeup and optical effects.

Along the way, visitors will encounter the inimitable California Raisins and the imposing Alien Queen from "Aliens." The former are tiny Claymation figures that are made to seem to move by stop-motion photography, in which the figures are photographed one frame at a time and have their positions changed slightly between frames; the latter, a 300-pound construction whose arm movements were created by two stunt men standing back-to-back.

For those who take their movie making seriously, there is even a formula for calculating the camera speed used to film a falling model. The formula is: f = (square root of D/d) x 24, where f = the camera speed in frames per second; D = the size of the real object, in feet; d = the size of the miniature in feet and 24 is the standard film speed.

uiz next week.

*

"Special Effects" will be at the Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St., from Saturday through Sept. 3. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. After June 29, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission is $7.50 for adults; $5.50 for students to age 17, seniors and military personnel. For information, call 685-5225.

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