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CINEFLEX ARTICLE

GHOSTBUSTERS REVISITED

...More elaborate means were used to produce two monsters - one observed coming out of a movie theater and a second terrorizing people in Washington Square. The first - photographed at Apogee - was created by Rick Lazzarini of [The Character Shop] in [Canoga Park]. "The theater ghost was based on a drawing by Henry Mayo. It had six eyes, four arms, two wings and a forked tail. The head was nearly human-size and sculpted by John Blake, while the body was made by Dan Frye. I worked on the mechanics. Since the theater ghost was added late to the film, we had only three weeks to build and shoot the puppet."

To puppeteer the creature, Lazzarini employed an interactive device he calls the 'facial Waldo.' "The facial Waldo is a cap and vest system worn by an external operator. Sensors are attached to the operator's face - on the brows, cheeks, lips and jaw - and these sensors link up to Ziff cards in the vest. Ziff cards were invented by Stuart Ziff to enable radio control type servos to be operated by direct wire - thus eliminating a noisy radio link. in effect, they fool the servo into thinking it is getting a command from a radio receiver. On Ghostbusters II the Ziff cards received information from the sensors on my face and head and then sent signals to servos inside the creature. When I moved my eyebrow or any other part of my lace, the theater ghost did the same thing; and if I moved my head left or right, the puppet did likewise. Since the theater ghost had six eyes, it therefore had six eyebrows. To make it simple, I had all six hooked up to the sensor on one of my eyebrows so that when I moved my brow, all six moved on the creature. This kept my hands free to puppeteer the wings, and it also allowed me to do the performance of the lace without having to plan it out using joysticks. The facial Waldo really allows for a much more natural performance."

Three additional puppeteers were required to operate the tail and the four arms, Since the creature was shot against black, Lazzarini and the other puppeteers wore black beekeeper-style suits with black mesh lace screens so they could see without being visible on film.

The Ghost and Mr. Lazzarini (4K)

Left:
On stage at Apogee, Rick Lazzarini touches up a mechanical creature he constructed for a montage shot of a winged ghost flying out of a movie theater. Facial articulation was accomplished via an interactive device that translated expressions made by an external operator directly to the puppet.

Theater Ghost (5K)

Right:
The Flying Ghost emerges from the theater.


In a single shot, the creature flies out of the theater, leers at the fleeing crowd on the street and then rushes at the camera. Even with the facial Waldo, puppeteering the creature was still very difficult because of the number of appendages involved and the short length of the shot. "The real difficulty came after we had rehearsed everything at half-speed to get the moves down and then realized that forty-eight frames per second was necessary to make the movements look smooth," recalled Sam Nicholson. "This meant that the puppeteers had to do the moves two or three times faster - and all within about two-and-a-half seconds. Also, to finish with the creature's mouth just about covering the camera, we had to shoot the whole thing in reverse. That put a real strain on both the camera crew and the puppeteers." To create a glowing effect, the creature's eyes were coated with front-projection material. "We put a ring light on the lens and then dialed up the intensity as we got closer to the creature so it would really look like he was coming at us. Having the eyes lit not only helped increase the illusion of depth, but it also made the creature seem more alive.

The ghost train sequence begins with the Ghostbusters walking down the deserted subway tunnel in search of the Van Home station. At first all is quiet, but then they start hearing some ominous noises. Suddenly they find themselves standing in the midst of the severed heads - all shot 'live' on the set. In an instant, the heads disappear and the threesome are again alone in the abandoned tunnel. "We bought the heads all over town," said Gross. "We put out a 'dead head' call and found them wherever we could. Pam Easley - our visual effects coordinator - was zombie wrangler for that. Rick Lazzarini made a few. We found a few. A prop house in New York had a few. For the shot, we placed the better ones in the foreground and the less detailed ones in the background."


Article excerpt from CINEFEX #40, CINEFEX, 1991. Reproduced for review purposes