The Ten Commandments (USA 1956)

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12.04.23, 17:09 Letzte Bearbeitung: 12.04.23, 17:11 von DCI sr.
Reportage des "American Cinematographer":


On this date in 1957, at the 29th Academy Awards ceremony, "The Ten Commandments," nominated for seven awards, would only win one- Best Special Effects.
The special photographic effects in the film were created by John P. Fulton, head of the special effects department at Paramount Pictures, assisted by Paul Lerpae and Farciot Edouart. Fulton's effects included the building of Sethi's Jubilee treasure city, the Burning Bush, the fiery hail from a cloudless sky, the Angel of Death, the composites of the Exodus, the Pillar of Fire, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the tour de force, the parting of the Red Sea.
The parting of the Red Sea was considered the most difficult special effect ever performed up to that time. This effect took about six months of VistaVision filming, and combined scenes shot on the shores of the Red Sea in Egypt, with scenes filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood of a huge water tank split by a U-shaped trough, into which approximately 360,000 gallons of water were released from the sides, as well as the filming of a giant waterfall also built on the Paramount backlot to create the effect of the walls of the parted sea out of the turbulent backwash. All of the multiple elements of the shot were then combined in Paul Lerpae's optical printer, and matte paintings of rocks by Jan Domela concealed the matte lines between the real elements and the special effects elements.
Unlike the technique used by Industrial Light and Magic for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) and "Poltergeist" (1982) of injecting poster paints into a glass tank containing a salt water inversion layer, the cloud effects for "The Ten Commandments" were formed with white Britt smoke filmed against a translucent sky backing, and colors were added optically. Striking portraits of Charlton Heston as Moses and three women in front of menacing clouds were photographed by Wallace Kelly, in Farciot Edouart's process (rear projection) department, in what are still considered unforgettable scenes. DeMille used these scenes to break up the montage, framing his subjects like a Renaissance master. An abundance of blue screen spillage or "bleeding" can be seen, particularly at the top of the superimposed walls of water, but rather than detracting from the shot, this (unintentionally) gives the scene an eerie yet spectacular appearance.
The approaching hailstorm that is seen on the sky was created with travelling mattes, while animation was used for the lightning. The hailstones that fell onto the pavilion of Rameses II's palace were actually pieces of popcorn that had been spray-painted white. Popcorn was extremely convenient as it was light, wouldn't hurt Yul Brynner, and could be swept up and used again. The fire that emerges from the hailstones required another special effects process, double exposure. The set was cleared of all hailstones, actors, and actresses, the camera remained in the same spot (for both angles and shots), and the crew set portions of the set on fire. Footage of the two shots (the hail falling on Rameses II and the fire burning on the ground) were then superimposed to achieve the effect of flames emerging from the hail.
Special effects property master William Sapp created the effects that turned the waters of the Nile red. Red dye was pumped into the water through a hose at the point where Aaron touched the river with his staff. Sapp also created the vessel that Rameses II's priest used in an attempt to restore the waters. The vessel had two chambers: one filled with clear water, located near the vessel's opening, and one filled with red-dyed water, located near the bottom. As the vessel was tipped to empty its contents, the clear water poured out first, then the red-dyed water. Six vessels were made for this movie, but only two were used during production. The reverse shot showing the red water extending out into the sea was created through animation onto shots of the Red Sea that had been photographed in Egypt. (Wikipedia/IMDb)