Serenity’s small budget means finding a way to make seaplanes ‘fly’

In many ways, the anecdote of a low-budget special effects genius is a timeless tale in Hollywood. The spirit of the early days of digital effects manifests on “Serenity” in the same way. One of the most disturbing scenes is the seaplane chase scene, in which the crew of the ship of the same name is chased by the beastly Reavers. “With a big-budget movie, we’re going to use a lot of green and digital screens, but we don’t have that much money for this,” said visual effects supervisor and unit director Monday Loni Peristere said That means they have to be really creative.

The goal was to make the franchise feel “contemporary, exciting, and fast-paced” without having to enhance each part of it with digital effects. So, in the end, Peristere built a rig that could hold a 15-foot seaplane along with a towing vehicle. Placing it on two “giant arms of steel”, they were able to safely tow the entire ship at 45 mph – this went a long way in creating the rather convincing illusion that it’s actually hovering.

To capture this scene, Peristere couldn’t rely on the use of a gimbal – the one used for the podrace scene in “The Phantom Menace.” Instead, they used a much cheaper option that involved placing a camera on a tow truck and a car following. It all makes for a bumpy and chaotic ride, but the actors seem to enjoy it. Adam Baldwin, whose character was stabbed and ended up in a seaplane before being pulled back by Nathan Fillion’s character, said it was “the most fun I’ve had in my entire life.” Serenity’s small budget means finding a way to make seaplanes ‘fly’

Fry Electronics Team

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