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Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) faces a tight squeeze in Paramount's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." The Lucasfilm Ltd. production was directed by Steven Spielberg.
Academy Award-winning special effects supervisor George Gibbs began his work on the mechanical effects for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" by meeting with experts in the fields of hydraulics, electronics and engineering. Every day of filming involved special effects on two units, including effects for scenes involving a tank, boats and aircraft.
"Special effects may not always be obvious on the screen," Gibbs relates. "For example, mechanisms for props are built by special effects, from breakaway door handles to airplane chassis." Gibbs reveals that one of his big assignments were replicas of an International Mark Seven tank made especially for the film: one replica being a 'float tank' with rubber treads for the stunt work. The other, made from steel and incorporating two V8 engines, weighed 25 tons and required three months to construct.
For aircraft scenes Gibbs pioneered some strobe light effects with what have been called "revolutionary propane guns," creating a state-of-the-art illusion of gunfire for the film.
For a nautical sequence, special effects were devised with balsa wood boats laced with explosives to simulate a boat's destruction by a ship propeller.
One of the most unusual effects involved the creation of 1,000 imitation rats, some mechanically articulated. Used for a catacomb sequence, some of the fake rats were used as swimming rats; while others were used for a conflagration effect, so that no live rat was harmed during filming.
" 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' has a collection of all the highlights any sound editor could dream of: explosions, fire, gunfights, earthquakes, windstorms, and chases in all sorts of different vehicles," sound designer Ben Burtt says. "I could go to my sound effects library catalogs and no matter what page I turned to, there would be an appropriate sound for a scene in the film."
Although Burtt has built a large Indiana Jones sound library since working on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (which brought him an Oscar in 1982), he states that he and his associates always look for original sound material for each film. For "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," special new recordings were made for such sounds as horses, crashes, aircraft, a tank, and artillery. Several hundred sound effects were collected on 41 tapes with an average of 20 effects on each tape -- around 800 in all.
After Burtt began his work by categorizing the sounds he planned to use, he started to collect them, on one occasion riding in a biplane upside down while recording. Traveling to find the best sounds possible, Burtt attended the destruction of a wind turbine over 300 feet high to record sounds to be utilized for crash scenes. Gunshots and ricochets were created and recorded in isolated locations in Utah and Texas.
The recording of a styrofoam cup at a family picnic became the basis for a roaring inferno after Burtt multiplied the sound at different frequencies with a computer. "The digital process of manipulating sounds--stretching them, shrinking them, or changing the pitch--is one of the big steps forward in the last ten years. Most of the things we now do with a Synclavier computer we used to do with tape and cutting."
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is being released in selected theatres in a special sound format called 70mm Full-Field Sound. "With this format we can move sounds not only from front to back in the theatre but from side to side," Burtt says.
"A film like this is brought to life with sound, which dramatically enhances and brings a natural dimension to the special effects," Burtt declares.