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#373969 - 02/01/2023 07:09 Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights?
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
Google isn't helping on this one so far. But I'm sure it must have been covered at some point in some "Making Of" special sometime. Photo attached, of the lights I'm talking about. The ring of moving lights around the edge of the airlock opening of the CE3K mothership. They moved in unusual flowing patterns which were very interesting. I'm referring to the "idle" animation of the white lights, by the way, not the hand-animated colorful ones from the conversation scene.



My guess is that it was done with a variation of his slit-scan technique that he famously used for the trippy stargate sequence in "2001". It has that kind of feel to it.

It's a shame he died last year, otherwise I could have just emailed and asked him directly. I even spoke to him once at a public appearance in Seattle several years ago, but I didn't think to ask him about it at the time.

Did anyone happen to watch some kind of "Making Of" special which covered this particular thing?



Attachments
ce3k ring lights.png (294 downloads)

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Tony Fabris

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#373970 - 07/01/2023 20:58 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
In this section of the documentary, at about 1:21:30, Dennis Muren talk about a projecting a moire pattern, but I think he's referring to the large dome instead of the ring lights.

https://youtu.be/_XytWm9m9cY?t=4887
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Tony Fabris

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#373971 - 07/01/2023 21:06 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
I've got a bunch of photos that I took of the original mothership model, from when I visited it at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center. (It's a lot of fun to find all the easter eggs on that model.) Alas, that's not the same model that was used to create the projected dome or the ring lights. The dome and ring lights were done with a separate, larger model of just that subsection.
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Tony Fabris

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#373972 - 08/01/2023 08:52 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
Okay, it appears to be described on pages 231 and 232 of this book:
https://books.google.com/books?id=B-ERra...hip&f=false

Though the Google preview omits page 231, the amount that spills over onto page 232 gives me some tantalizing hints. They call that light ring “the scanner” apparently. I’ll be getting that book soon.
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Tony Fabris

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#373974 - 08/01/2023 20:29 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
Roger
carpal tunnel

Registered: 18/01/2000
Posts: 5671
Loc: London, UK
This thing needs a like/favourite button so I can express my appreciation for the effort you put into this, while being completely unable to help with it myself.
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-- roger

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#373977 - 09/01/2023 05:58 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: Roger]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
smile

Long term goal is to fully understand the original VFX process so that I can write a proper simulation in code, and run that on my LED light strips.

Prior art on CE3K LED-strip programming is fun, and quite good, but not a proper simulation of the original technique so it doesn't feel exactly right. Examples:
- https://gist.github.com/jasoncoon/d4c935566ec82731fece
- https://youtu.be/aEVh9WNl57A

Anyway, if I get something I like, I'll GitHub it. Maybe I'll even add the colored conversation lights at some point, too. Though even as a kid, I was amused at how naive it was to depict extraterrestrials that used our modern western diatonic musical scale (even-tempered, no less), and also that their PA system was apparently broadcasting the work of a skilled tubaist. Oh, and earlier in the film, the ETs used our own arbitrary Earth coordinate system to broadcast a meeting location to us. Spielberg just quickly hand-waving some of the most complex and difficult aspects of first contact. (Arrival and Contact were much better takes on it.)

Though, re-watching that scene, it occurs to me that the ETs had been hauling around some earth primates for a while (for some time-dilated values of "a while") and perhaps all those things had been gleaned from them. I wonder if the tubaist was one of the folks who got released during the foreign exchange program at the end, or if they hung onto them just in case?
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Tony Fabris

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#374000 - 10/01/2023 23:04 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Scanner Effect

From the book "Close Encounters of the Third Kind - The Making of Steven Spielberg's Classic Film" by Ray Morton

"Another important lighting effect on the underbelly was the scanner- a series of white lights that rotate around the circular cutout from which the hatch emerges. To create the scanner, a piece of fiber-optic cable was attached to a tiny motorized arm that circled around the cutout at the rate of one revolution per frame. The cable was threaded down through the underbelly and attached to a motorized grip that moved back and forth on a track set up in front of a very bright light source. Robert Swarthe cut several zigzag patterns out of pieces of shiny black paper, which were then mounted in glass and placed between the light source and the motorized grip. During filming, the grip would move past the patterns. The black paper would block the light coming from the source, but when the grip moved over an open area in the pattern, the light would shine through and the fiber optic would transmit it to the scanner arm. This on-again, off-again pattern broke the scanner line into segments. The long exposures employed to shoot each frame caused the lights to streak a bit. As a result, some of the scanner lights appeared to expand and contract, while others appeared to merge with and separate from one another. Like the other light patterns, the scanner effect was filmed in its own separate pass."
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Tony Fabris

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#374002 - 12/01/2023 19:19 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
DWallach
carpal tunnel

Registered: 30/04/2000
Posts: 3797
This is a fun thread to read.

Meanwhile, I'm having a "kids these days" moment. Like, does anybody watch Close Encounters any more?

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#374003 - 12/01/2023 19:56 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: DWallach]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
I hope so. As a film, it's got some problems, but it was immensely popular at the time, and important for me as a kid. And of course, the VFX were special at the time: The motion-controlled fog lighting passes, Trumbull's cloud tank tricks (he was still using those same tricks just a few years ago), etc.
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Tony Fabris

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#374007 - 21/01/2023 00:48 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
I can't find any pictures of the actual fiber optic rig, or more importantly, the black zigzag patterns. Robert Swarthe is still alive according to Wikipedia (age 80) but I have no idea how to contact him. Anyone have any ideas of how I might email him or his family?
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Tony Fabris

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#374008 - 21/01/2023 19:33 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
Currently listening to an interview with Robert Swarthe on a podcast from several years ago ("The Optical", episodes 18 and 19). Also contacting the podcast producer to see if he's still got contact info for him.
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Tony Fabris

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#374009 - 23/01/2023 22:36 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
jmwking
old hand

Registered: 27/02/2003
Posts: 759
Loc: Washington, DC metro
Originally Posted By: tfabris
I can't find any pictures of the actual fiber optic rig, or more importantly, the black zigzag patterns. Robert Swarthe is still alive according to Wikipedia (age 80) but I have no idea how to contact him. Anyone have any ideas of how I might email him or his family?

It looks like he attended UCLA. Perhaps checking with their alumni affairs dept or finding another ucla alum who can? Schools never seem to lose track of potential donors.

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#374012 - 24/01/2023 20:22 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: jmwking]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
Someone on Reddit indeed went that route and said they got in contact with him. I messaged them on Reddit, I'll see if they respond, and if not, I'll try the same route.
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Tony Fabris

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#374017 - 27/01/2023 22:20 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
No response from the person on Reddit, or from the podcast producer, and the UCLA Alumni association has responded and said they won't put me in touch with him for privacy reasons. frown
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Tony Fabris

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#374018 - 28/01/2023 01:36 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
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Tony Fabris

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#374023 - 30/01/2023 21:22 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
UCLA Alumni Association has agreed to forward an email to Robert Swarthe, and I'm also awaiting an email reply from Ray Morton. Crossing my fingers.
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Tony Fabris

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#374025 - 02/02/2023 01:18 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31503
Loc: Seattle, WA
Currently in an email exchange with Robert Swarthe. He's very nice and is answering my questions. More details later. smile
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Tony Fabris

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#374026 - 03/02/2023 21:01 Re: Anyone know how Douglas Trumbull did these particular lights? [Re: tfabris]
jmwking
old hand

Registered: 27/02/2003
Posts: 759
Loc: Washington, DC metro
Originally Posted By: tfabris
Currently in an email exchange with Robert Swarthe. He's very nice and is answering my questions. More details later. smile

Wonderful! Looking forward to a report.

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