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Interviews > Paul Taglianetti
(Video Image Supervisor: Escape From
How did you end up being a Visual Effects Coordinator/Producer etc?
I was hired by Robert Grasmere, who was
also a veteran of John Carpenter films (He supervised the computer effects on
Prince of Darkness
and played Frank Wyndham, the
man who is covered in bugs in that film.) to work on a film called Demolition
Man coordinating the film's extensive video and computer graphics. The
company I worked for was called Video Image and one of its founders and lead
supervisors was John Wash, one of John Carpenter's film school associates from
USC (University of Southern California). John did a lot of the effects and
animations on Dark Star as well as computer graphics on The Thing
and Halloween III.
How did you get the assignment to be the Video Image Supervisor for
Escape From L.A.?
I stayed at Video Image for
several years supervising video effects and playback for films including
Se7eN, Executive Decision, Jade and Down Periscope.
While working for John Wash we received a call from Paramount that Carpenter
wanted John Wash to work on the sequel to EFNY because John did the
graphics for that film. When the script came over he was busy supervising
several projects. He knew I was a HUGE fan of the original film and asked me if
I would supervise the show. I was one of John Wash's producers at Video Image.
John still oversaw everything and was very supportive.
How did you prepare for this project and how has the technology changed since
John Wash's pre-computer work on
Escape From New York?
The first thing I did was
meet with John and his producer Debra Hill over at Paramount studios. It was one
of the quickest meetings I've ever been in. John simply asked me if I saw the
first film. He said to make the computer graphics to look like the simulations
in the first film. I think he was looking for
visual symmetry with the first film.
The graphics for EFLA were all done on Mac computers and transferred to
3/4" video tapes for on set playback. John's effects on EFNY are done by
putting scotch lite tape on black miniature cut outs and then using motion
controlled cameras to shoot the resultant effect. This was done simply because
they didn't have the money, time and tech to create vector graphics. In EFLA,
we used computers and an apple graphics program called Elastic Reality to create
the 3D vector simulations.
How did you come up with the graphic displays, how were they done and how long
did they take to make?
Before principal photography I met with Lawrence Paull, the production designer
who is well known in the industry as the Production Designer on
Blade Runner. We discussed
the look of the control room and what he wanted on the monitors.
We had production designs and
blue prints of Universal studios and the surrounding area for the submarine
schematic on the computer monitor. This was supposed to depict the area around
Universal studios submerged by the earthquake/tidal wave. We also had production
design drawings for reference in creating the computer map in Stacy Keach's
(Malloy) control center from production designer Lawrence Paull's artists. The graphics were all created by the digital artists at Video Image. I
would bring the graphics to the set on a small playback monitor and JC would
make comments/changes etc. They were made over the course of a month or two. In
addition we shot close-ups of the plutoxin countdown and Cliff Robertson (The
President) talking to the camera on hi-res monitors at Video Image in Marina Del
Rey. These shots were cut in at the beginning of the film during the
narration/prologue. Most of the other shots, the
submarine interior, the control room at Firebase 7, the finger scanner, the
laptop at the landing site at the climax were all shot live on set my Video
Playback engineer Larry Potoker. They were fed into the monitors from premade
video tapes that are run through a time base correction system. We used 3/4"
video playback decks that are synced to the cameras so that the visible roll bar
caused by the discrepancy in frames per seconds from video to film doesn't occur.
Back then, plasma and flat screens weren't as widely used yet. We were still
using Cathode Ray Tube monitors which have 30 frame refresh rates. Without the
special video equipment and sync boxes, you would see the rolling bar on the
monitors. The satellite demonstration by Leland Orser (Test Tube) was composited
Were there any kinds of obstacles during the
making of these effects
which were the most complex/hardest to create?
The EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) satellite simulation that Test Tube shows on the
small monitor was probably the most time consuming. It took a long time because
it was texture mapped 3D when 3D was relatively new so render times took awhile.
So we were not able to shoot that on set through the small plasma screen but
instead had to feed a green screen signal into the monitor. Later Buena Vista
VFX (Visual Effects) (formerly Dream Quest Images) composited the shot together.
The vector graphic simulation of
Universal studios probably took the longest. Most
of this was overseen by my coordinator Patricia Cerami.
Were any video effects canned or not used?
To the best of my knowledge, they
cut in everything we made. There was more video footage of Plissken entering the
Firebase station on the newsfeed but that was cut down. There was also the
Cuervo Jones video to the President listing his demands which might have been
cut down a bit. As far as the computer graphics, I'm pretty sure they used all
What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?
It was watching John direct and Debra produce. Ms Hill was one of the
most professional filmmakers I'd ever seen. I was totally in awe of her. When I
hear the word 'producer' I think of her and rate everyone who wears that mantle
against her. Not too many are up to her standards. I was really sad when I heard
of her passing. John was so no-nonsense. No Drama. No B/S. John is the closest
thing my generation got to having our own Howard Hawks. I love all his movies
and I was so glad I got to work on one of them.
What do you think of the movie personally?
I have always loved John's political and social commentary and
is filled with sly and witty observations of government and society. John
doesn't get enough credit for his films' insights. I prefer
dark edginess to
almost comic book-like visual tone but it's still a fun film and I'm proud of my
team's work on it.
What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I work in education teaching digital media and graphic design. In my free time I
do anything but think of computers, media or work!
Thank you for your time, Paul.