Was the sunset real?

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Scene: kissing on the bow. On "Oprah," Cameron said the sunset was real. Kate chimed in that she was jumping up and down for the cameramen to shoot as the beautiful sunset developed. Cameron adds they did it in that one shoot. Weeks later, I learn from the photographer on CNN's "Impact" show that only part of it was the real sunset, the rest in a room with a sunset on the wall. I may not have listened carefully to him. Will the real story please stand up? Was Cameron playing with semantics so that the film's Best Cinematography award chances were not diminished (assuming the scene would be considered a visual effect only)?

-- Bob Gregorio (donthave@sorry.net), March 29, 1998


My understanding is that this scene was filmed three separate times -- once on the set in Mexico with a real sunset, once with a green screen and once with a painted background to match the real sunset. I read about it in PREMIERE magazine's behind-the-scenes feature on "Titanic" in, I think, the November 1997 issue. The reporter writes about watching Winslet and DiCaprio do numerous takes of the scene on a set, with a painted sunset, and that "they had already filmed this scene twice before."

-- Lara Goetsch (lgoetsch@wppost.depaul.edu), March 29, 1998.

The sunset in the "flying scene" was real.

-- Dan Draghici (ddraghic@sprint.ca), March 29, 1998.

(from the discussion with cinematographer Russell Carpenter, ASC, at the Cosmic Fury Cameron retrospective)

Carpenter mentioned that the real sunset was the "connective tissue" that held together the scene. The film crew was doing costume tests on the stern of the ship when the sunset developed. (The test was for the shawl/wrap that Rose wears, to see if it would flow properly in the wind.) The whole crew had to move and setup for the shot very quickly. {Leo had to be called out of his trailer and made-up.}

I got the impression that Cameron shot the rehearsals, and kept shooting until it was right. Carpenter mentioned that the focus pullers had a nightmarish time since Cameron kept changing the camera move; out of the seven takes, only two were in focus. (In 12 years, we'll have the computing power to refocus those other takes.)

For the rest of scene, a giant {360 degree} translite of the sunset was made indoors at the Rosarito Beach studio. A quarter-scale model of the front of the ship was constructed behind the bow set (which was dismantled and setup indoors). Carpenter mentioned that it felt like garage filmmaking at times: shots that should never have worked, worked. {The translite was only 20 feet behind the actors.}

A sock puppet of the captain was improvised, complete with makeshift hat and beard. Later, it was digitally replaced by something more high-tech, and the sock puppet described as a temporary measure. It is out-of-focus in the background, so it isn't noticeable.

Shots with fast moving water, and the last shot (the time dissolve) had to have been shot in front of a green screen. The long, sweeping helicopter shot was a special visual effect...

It is important to remember that the overall effect of any scene is seperate from the technique used in making it, but in this case both are important and intertwingled.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (titanicshack@yahoo.com), February 12, 1999.


"Intertwingled"??? :>) Interesting stuff!

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), February 12, 1999.

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