By Paul R. Harmer
The INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER November, 1934 p.12
ONE of the finest process shots made in recent months was engineered by the R.K.O. Process department, headed by Vernon Walker. He was assisted by Don Jahraus, Billy Williams and Maurice Larringa, in a recent production entitled “Behold, We Live,” starring Clive Brook and Irene Dunne.
This process shot is outstanding for two reasons: first, because of the various combinations and mechanics; second, because the job was excellently done.
The script called for a long shot of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a section of a bridge over the River Seine in the foreground and a light change from night to full daylight illumination, all in 100 feet of film.
Offhand, one might say “just another trick shot, but if one will only stop and consider the intricacies of matching a glass, a miniature set and a projected background in addition to a light change, all in one shot with no cutaway, and all of this used again as a projected background for another shot, with people in the foreground, the real difficulties become apparent to the initiate.
The roof of the cathedral was painted with translucent paint, which gave the slate shingles a sheen. The clouds in the background overlapped each other and were blended just enough to give them a natural roundness with perspective. A little back light on the water gave it the necessary life to make it sparkle.
The automobiles traveling over the distant bridges were lighted with the small wires which pulled them along.
In Fig. 1 and 2 we have the plan and elevation of the set-up. In Fig. 3 and 4 we have the lens view of the glass and miniature, showing distinctly the matte line. The background is projected clouds, so is not shown separately.
Numeral 1 is a 35 mm. lens; 2 is an 8 by 10 foot optical plate glass in a rigid frame ; 3 is water ; 4 is the miniature set shown in Fig. 4 ; 5 is 36-inch carbon spotlights, spread to a wide angle and throwing their light on the back drop ; 6 is a transparent cellophane sheet fastened on a rigid wooden frame. This cellophane is painted with clouds. Number 7 is an electric motor geared to move the cellophane screen along horizontally at steady speed ; 8 is a transparent cellophane roller curtain, the paint fading from transparent to opaque. This dimmer curtain is geared to motor 9 ; the lights used for illumination and projection are operated through rheostat 10. The hack drop, 11 is a plain white sheet whereon the clouds are projected. Another small rheostat not shown here regulates the lights in the cathedral, the street lamps and the headlights on the moving cars.
This film was made into a print and used for a projection back for the scene where Irene Dunne stood on the bridge overlooking the river, where she seriously contemplated suicide. This shot was made with a 75 mm. lens and a small section of the bridge in the foreground and about six feet back of this was an 11 by 14 foot projection screen.
R.K.O. can well be proud of the men who have done so much to improve process photography. Everyone has marveled at “King Kong,” “Son of Kong,” and many others just as cleverly done.