Where dinosaurs roam

Landscape ideal location for 3D blockbuster

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 15:22 16/01/2014
Walking With Dinosaurs

Key art from Walking With Dinosaurs, the 3D blockbuster that grossed more than $31 million in its first 10 days in the United States, had key shots filmed in Wakatipu.

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Walking With Dinosaurs, which had crucial background ‘‘plate’’ shots filmed in the Glenorchy area and near Kingston has hit 3D screens worldwide.

Billed as "the ultimate immersive, big screen adventure for families," starring dinosaurs "more real than you've ever seen", the project was another pinnacle of achievement for the Queenstown and southern film industry, Film Otago Southland executive manager Kevin "KJ" Jennings said.

"The producers initially scheduled to shoot only a short segment of plate shots in our region," Mr Jennings said.

"But once they got those shots, producers were so happy with what they’d got, and the calibre of our crews, that they extended the shooting schedule here once, then twice, to the extent where the plate shots featuring in the finished film are really dhextensive."

In the traditional age where plate shots were shot on 35mm celluloid film, plate shots were generally static and therefore required only small shooting crews. However, in the digital age plate shots had taken on a much more crucial part of film making.

"Walking With Dinosaurs used a new generation approach to plate shots, where those shots became a much more dynamic part of filming and the final film.

"There’s lots of camera movement featuring lots of the landscape, which then becomes the background for the digital action which is added in later."

The new generation approach meant more crew were required than in traditional celluloid days and film technicians, local and international, varied from 40 to 60 on shooting days.

The shoot was a particular bonus for Glenorchy, which also featured heavily in Jane Campion’s widely acclaimed series Top Of The Lake.

"This is the first big international feature film crew we’ve had that has set up a production office, and accommodated all their crew in Glenorchy, which proved to be an invaluable base,’’ Mr Jennings said.

Queenstown-based location scout and manager Phil Turner said the initial three-week shoot grew to 13 weeks after Alaska proved too harsh and inflexible as a location.

‘‘The production just grew and grew as producers found we had a great scope of locations that could fulfil what they needed,’’ Mr Turner said.

‘‘We shot a lot at the Mavora Lakes and through to Te Anau in some logistically challenging locations.

‘‘It’s great to display that kind of flexibility in terms of locations, but it’s the whole package when you’re talking about filming here.

‘‘Our crews have huge skills, but also great attitudes and really enjoy their work, plus in situations like the Dinosaurs shoot we got loads of help from a lot of high country station runholders and LINZ.

‘‘It’s those kinds of things that keep producers coming back.’’

The BBC and Fox co-production scored a $7 million opening weekend in the United States on December 20, and by January 3 had grossed $31,344,185 in the United States alone. It opened in New Zealand on January 1.

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- The Mirror

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