For tens of millions of years pterosaurs dominated the skies. Some were the size of sparrows, but others were as big as a small airplane with wingspans of up to 40 feet. If you have ever wondered what it feels like to fly with a prehistoric pterosaur, then Flying Monsters 3-D is a movie you must see! The movie brings these winged dinosaurs to life on the giant screen and you actually feel like you are right there with them. It is now showing worldwide in giant-screen theaters and digital 3-D cinemas. I saw it at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and oh my goodness, it was amazing!
We got the behind-the-scenes scoop about making the movie from the producer Anthony Geffen and the narrator David Attenborough.
Attenborough says, “CGI brings these creatures alive. . .You can’t tell that these creatures haven’t actually been filmed. They are totally believable in every detail and are as convincing as an image of a bird."
However,there were a lot of challenges filming the movie. The 3-D technology is extremely complex, and the camera equipment is cumbersome, weighing more than 123 pounds (56 kg), almost 10 times more than a high-definition television camera.
The team shot the rainforest scene at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The backdrop of steamy tropics replicates the exact conditions of a real rain forest, at temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 percent humidity. Although vital for the shoot, conditions were brutal to the sensitive 3-D camera rig and caused one of the cameras to go down during a take. As the team worked to cool down the overheated camera with bags of ice wrapped in cloth, shooting came to a standstill.
The most difficult and expensive shoot of the whole project was filmed in Dorset, England. “What we did here was one of the most complicated sequences ever done in 3-D. We filmed David [Attenborough] in a real glider and later, using CGI, we superimposed a massive pterosaur, the biggest one: Quetzalcoatlus. The idea was to demonstrate the extraordinary scale of the pterosaur — a creature that was longer than a bus and could fly at 75 miles per hour — by setting it beside something from the modern day of the same size that people could relate to,” explains Geffen. The sequence was filmed using a specially designed 3-D camera rig, mounted onto a helicopter. The pilot, a filming specialist, constantly had to compensate for the extra weight at the same time as performing a complex aerial ballet.
Aerial ballet with a dinosaur! Wow! With all those challenges during the shoot, it's a good thing they were only CGI pterosaurs and not real ones!
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Images courtesy National Geographic