Welcome back to How’d They Do That? In this series, we check out behind the scenes stills and video from the making of some of cinema’s greatest! With Independence Day: Resurgence hitting theatres this week, I thought it would interesting to take a look behind the making of 1996’s Independence Day. Roland Emmerich’s original film features jaw dropping effects, that were brought to the screen using a variety of visual effect tools. The effects were impressive enough to score Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil an Academy Award for visual effects in 1997.
At its time, Independence Day featured the largest usage of miniature/model effects in any film, with a whopping (for the time) $75 million spend on these effects alone. The film contains over 3000 visual effects shots, including practical effects, motion-controlled photography, pyrotechnics and CGI. Below are some great behind the scenes shots of this mid 90’s blockbuster!
The below picture really gives the word miniature a run for its money. Below we see the destroyer ship hovering over the miniature Nevada desert. The size of this thing is amazing! I believe this may have been used to capture background footage for the aerial battle featured in the finale. The other components – the Alien fighters and F18’s – would have been composited into the footage shot with the motion control camera seen in the foreground.In a film that’s full of some of the most destructive explosions put to screen, it’s good to know that a lot were all real. In 1996, CGI was still in its infancy. As such, the crew stuck with tried and true methods – real pyrotechnics included. Below we see a wire-rigged miniature fighter flying through a wall of flames during the sequence where Will Smith‘s character is being pursued by enemy fighters through the desert canyon.Next, the end of the same sequence. Below we see a crew grabbing a shot of the Alien fighter after it clips the side of the canyon wall. I love that you can see the ramp (on the right) the miniature fighter was pushed up to get the flying effect as it brushes the cliff edge before crashing to the ground.Now we come to the money shot. Featured heavily in the promotional material for the film, and the DVD cover, the White House explosion was a truly amazing effect that has stuck with audiences for 20 years. The White House model was a 1:24 scale model of the real building. The effects crew only had one shot to effectively blow up all their hard work, so a total of 9 cameras recorded the explosion, each at different speeds. This allowed filmmakers the ability to turn a 1 second shot of an exploding model into the longer 8 second shot for the film.Below is a great set photo of the aftermath of the Alien attack. Did you know that both the Los Angeles and New York attacks were all done with miniatures and pyro? To achieve the effect of the explosion spreading across the city, the visual effects team crafted their city environments, and then put them sideways, with the camera looking down. The cities were then ignited from the bottom, and the fire progressed up through the city towards the camera. Brilliant.Below, we see Alien Creature Effects supervisor Patrick Tatopoulos with his creation. The aliens were brought to life through a variety of techniques. When it was just a head/shoulder shot, the alien was performed by an actor in a suit. Other full body shots were done via rod-puppet.Finally, if you have 30 minutes spare, I highly recommend watching this documentary on the making of the film (just get through the first couple of minutes of the fake new reels!) There’s some amazing stuff here, and well worth a watch.
Hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes of Independence Day. Don’t forget to check out our review of Independence Day: Resurgence, currently playing in theatres. Until next time, keep watching and asking How’d They Do That!