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Old April 19th, 2008, 07:24 PM   #1
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Mass. Ave. bridge shot in 21: The Movie

Does anyone know the logistics of the opening shot that flies around Ben on his bike? I thought it must have been CGI, not even contemplating the possibility that they might have landed a helicopter on Mass. Ave., but some people think otherwise. I wonder which would be cheaper?
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Old April 19th, 2008, 08:59 PM   #2
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Might have been Smoot technology at work...!
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Old January 1st, 2009, 01:10 PM   #3
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"21" The Movie / Opening Aerial

The shot is fantastic and seamless in its look as a one shot. I have been touting the shot as up there with the opening of (Altman's) "The Player," (Greenaway's) transitions in "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & her Lover... and the feature length, "Rope" (from Hitchcock). But like Hitchcock's ruse, it is not as seamless as it seems and is actually two shots. There is a brief (and not technical) explanation from the Director, Robert Luketic, on the DVD commentary. He explains that there is a break in the shot (I looked frame by frame and cannot see any artifacts, it is perfect) at the point where the bus passes behind "Ben" the lead character on the bicycle on the bridge. At that point it is a crane shot. It is almost more amazing when you know this as the bus that passes behind "Ben" is transparent and another car is seen passing behind it... also his hair is windblown and out of place and stays that way... and we all know how difficult hair and CGI is to do right. This is done right. No, they did not land a helicopter (not even a FlyingCam) on the bridge for the shot... but they did have the bridge to themselves one morning and landed and picked up director and crew from the bridge. Fantastic shot and a very stylistic film to watch.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 04:36 PM   #4
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So, no Smoots then?!

Actually if a comparison was to be made with this beautifully executed shot to Hitchock's work, I would suggest the shot from "Frenzy" that pulled back from an interior staircase to across the street, which was two separate crane shots (one on stage and the other on location) that were intercut via a passing extra. Really extraordinary for the time and even a critical viewer today might not detect the cut.

An example of another helicopter to crane (Steadicam on crane, which then cuts further to another Steadicam shot) is the opening of The Birdcage, probably viewable on Youtube. However the morph between the first two shots is quite easy to detect and rather clunky by today's standards. At the time though, a lot of people thought the Steadicam operator was hanging off the bottom of the helicopter!
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 11:47 AM   #5
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As I watched that shot, I did a "Holywhatheohmy!" Alone, that shot was worth the rental.

After the film though, I asked my wife about it and she didn't know what I was talking about. Same with my son.

So to the average viewer it was not out of place or jolting, making it even more interesting in my opinion.
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Old March 8th, 2009, 12:39 AM   #6
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I finally recorded this on the DVR and watched it frame by frame. You can see the transitions both on Ben's face (before the bus crosses) and on his pants, where the shadow fades out (during the bus cross). It looks to me like the bus was a purely digital element, as there is a certain amount of hard edge visible around Ben's hair when the bus is behind him, is this true? I also assume that in the back half of the shot, the bicycle is hard mounted to the camera car since you don't see the bottom of it and his speed is well locked to camera.

Even after dissecting it, it's a great shot and I wish I had been in my old home town working on an sequence as cool as this!
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Old May 16th, 2012, 10:30 PM   #7
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Re: Mass. Ave. bridge shot in 21: The Movie

To your point, let me add that there is also, a disconnect in the two scenes, before and after the bus passes Ben, the people walking at the other side of the bridge and the new charters are introduced after the bus passes Ben, they don't match. Yes, I agree, I assume the bike and camera are mounted together; in fact you can see it as they pass over a bump almost at the end of the bridge scene, you can see the shaking in the camera, and a few frames later the bridge joined section is in view. What bothers me though is to observe how the cars slow down as the helicopter goes over the bridge, most obvious when approaching Ben a few frames before the bus passes him. One last thing that bothers me a bit is the guy with the cell phone turning his head to the camera as the helicopter approaches the bridge. Anyway, these are merely observations that no one will care to notice. It is an amazing shot. That scene alone most have cost them a fortune.
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Old May 22nd, 2012, 04:01 PM   #8
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Re: Mass. Ave. bridge shot in 21: The Movie

The bus is definitely CGI, the perspective is wrong. The camera is in front of Ben when it passes but you can see the back of the bus as it goes by.

The same vehicles pass him before and after the bus too, in the same order: silver Chrysler 300, motorcyle, gold Saturn, tan Chrysler Pacifica.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 12:22 AM   #9
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Re: Mass. Ave. bridge shot in 21: The Movie

I would say it's green screen.

Rent the 2006 movie "Poseidon" and watch the "making of".
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Old May 29th, 2012, 01:21 AM   #10
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Re: Mass. Ave. bridge shot in 21: The Movie

Some pictures of the shoot here:

Photo Gallery - Volume 127, Issue 20 - The Tech

These confirm that it was a helicopter for the opening followed by a stabilized Technocrane on a Shotmaker camera car. Surprisingly the shot of the actor riding the bike back to one indicates that it wasn't mounted to the Shotmaker. He maintained the distance to camera surprisingly well.
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