Once the company moved to the Burbank soundstages on the Warner Bros. lot, a whole new set of hurdles presented themselves. With the story requiring up to 40 minutes of action taking place inside the train, it became critical that the exterior scenery seen through the windows gave the impression of reality. There was really only one way to create that effect: computer-digitized film imagery combined with advanced green-screen technology. The various methods used over the years to accomplish similar effects would have been cost prohibitive and aesthetically risky due to the large volume of imagery manipulation necessary on "Under Siege 2."
Months before principal photography got under way, three-time Academy Award nominee Richard Yuricich, A.S.C., and his crew spent weeks in the Colorado Rockies filming various locations from a moving train with Vista Vision cameras. "We Used multiple cameras capturing a wider field of view to cover multiple angles, which is the unique thing," states Yuricich. "We overlapped up to four different pieces of location photography and blended them digitally in a computer. As Geoff's camera moved on the interior train set, we took these blended location shots and composited them to a final negative using digital tracking systems. During this final negative compositing, other effects, enhancements and repairs were included."
The interior action scenes were shot on Stage 18 on the Warner Bros. lot in front of the largest green screen ever used. Yuricich and his team used mathematical formulas and precise measurements adjusted to the exact specifications of the stage, which allowed the camera movement to be fluid moving from left-to-right or right-to-left without losing the perspective of the exteriors added via the green-screen process.
Computers and green screens aside, actors and filmmakers also had to deal wit the very real physical limitations created by the train's interior sets. "It was like working in a sardine can every day," remembers Everett McGill. "It was uncomfortable, but, by the same token, it certainly created a suitable kind of atmosphered for this kind of claustrophobic menace and terror."
Producer Steve Perry takes a more pragmatic point of view. "It certainly added to the realism, and we wouldn't have done it any other way," he says. "We didn't have a whole lot of latitude in what we could do. It's a tribute to Geoff and Richard that we pulled it off with such success."
"Under Siege 2" climaxes in spectacular fashion when the Grand Continental crashes head-on into a 100-car freight train carrying gasoline.
What is seen on screen is an actual crash between two "miniature" trains. What's unusual is the size of the miniatures. 1000 feet of track and approximately 3 tones of train miniatures. Richard Yuricich says, "We created both the Grand Continental and the gasoline freight in one-eighth scale, so our 'miniature' Grand Continental is actually 125 feet long, and the freight train's even longer!"
The film's final crash and resulting explosion take place in the middle of a trestle towering high above a canyon floor. Like the miniatures trains, the trestle and canyon had to be created in the same one-eighth scale. A canyon 30 feet deep was dug in an isolated spot in Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles, to represent the 240-foot gorge in the movie.
A 200-foot trestle (doubling for the 1600-foot bridge) was build to span the gorge. The trains, operated by remote control, were slammed into each other at 15 miles an hour, which translates into a combined speed of approximately 120 miles per hour in the finished film
Intercut with sequences shot in miniatures are scenes shot on the full-sized sets, marking Ryback's hair-raising, last-minute escape from the train. "To do that, we built two car that were full scale," Yuricich explains. "We actually ran a locomotive through it. I suggested that we do a one-to-one scale and run a loco through it, and they went for it."
As Geoff Murphy simply states, "We're going out with a bang."
Warner Bros. Presents, In Association with Regency Enterprises, An Arnon Milchan-Seagal/Nasso Production of A Geoff Murphy Film: Steven Seagal in "Under Siege 2," starring Eric Bogosian, Katherine Heigl, Morris Chestnut and Everett McGill. The film is edited by Michael Tronick, A.C.E, and the production designer is Albert Brenner. The director of photography is Robbie Greenberg, A.S.C., and the music is by Basil Poledouris. Julius R. Nasso is the co-producer; Gary Goldstein, Jeffrey Neuman & Martin Wiley are the executive producers. "Under Siege 2" is written by Richard Hatem & Matt Reeves and produced by Steven Seagal, Arnon Milchan and Steve Perry. The film is directed by Geoff Murphy. Distributed by Warner Bros., a Time Warner Entertainment Company.
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