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I sometimes forget just how much can be done with today’s technology and a boatload (literally, in this instance) of hard work and determination. Case in point is this amazing bit of vfx work from three graphic designers working for BBC’s Timewatch (currently only available in the UK) to recreate the carnage and mayhem that was the Omaha Beach invasion of World War II.
Aside from the unforgivable music choice, watching the making-of montage is as much fun as beholding the end result. It’s clear that these three lads were motivated by an uncommon passion to pull off this feat. Based on the Timewatch production blog, their names are Neil Wilson, Steve Flynn and Colin Thornton. More from the blog (although it’s pretty evident in the featurette):
They are here for two days to film some basic drama reconstruction sequences that will form the basis of their D-Day landing scene. In order to catch low tide when the beach is at its widest, we head for the beach at dawn whereupon the three boys spent several exhausting hours dress up in the uniforms and run up and down the sand, as I operate the Z1 camera.
They carefully plan it so that each run is in a different part of the frame. That way, when they are back in the office, they can layer these frames up in the computer until it looks like there are hundreds of men landing on the beach – rather than just three. Later they will drop in beach obstacles and landing crafts, based on images they have gathered from books – and also small explosions, filmed separately again.
As well as the beach landing scene, they have to film a sequence of cliff climbing at Pointe du Hoc – to illustrate what Ike and his fellow Rangers had to do on D-Day. We find a small 10ft sand dune which the boys clamber up head-on into the camera. I help hold up the green screen making sure it fills the frame behind the boys. The green screen means that when it comes to the edit, they can drop in a different background – in this case, the sea and Pointe du Hoc cliff-line.