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Behind the Effects of The Sandman PDF Print E-mail
Written by Supplied by J.R. Bookwalter   
Dec 03, 2004 at 07:00 PM
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Behind the Effects of The Sandman
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Special effects have always been a staple of director J.R. Bookwalter's work. In THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989) it was the dismembered head with the finger oozing out of its throat and the zombie eating a live rat. With OZONE (1994) the young director was the first low-budget filmmaker ever to use computer-generated morphing to create stunning transformations. Bookwalter's latest effort, The Suburban Tempe Company production of THE SANDMAN, is no exception.
For THE SANDMAN, Bookwalter, producer James L. Edwards and a support crew spent several months digitally enhancing nearly 300 of the film's 800+ shots. The enhancements included the title creature's glowing eyes, a character's legs warping into the floor, tentacles "gulping" the souls of their victims and lightning bolts shooting out of chests.
Many of the effects in the film are not effects at all, but ways to allow the filmmakers to fine-tune their creation (and in some cases, to cover their mistakes). Such work included flawlessly removing a sheriff's name from the side of a police car, adding lens flares to flashlight beams and painting the tip of a gun barrel that had its barrel plugged. Is it any wonder that one Hollywood producer has called Bookwalter the "James Cameron of low-budget cinema"?
To create his illusions, Bookwalter enlisted an Apple Power Macintosh personal computer. The entire production&emdash;including an opening title sequence and initial dialogue cutting&emdash;was edited on the PC using Adobe Premiere software. To facilitate the digital rotoscoping and enhancement, THE SANDMAN effects team turned to Adobe Photoshop and Fractal Design Painter software. All of the footage was brought into the PC courtesy of Radius VideoVision Studio hardware. The final edit was assembled on broadcast video with an all-digital audio mix courtesy of the Amiga 3000 computer and SunRize Industries' Studio 16 hardware and software.
Despite the huge evolutionary step between Bookwalter's OZONE (completed in 1993) and this year's SANDMAN, the director is wary of producers eager to misuse the technology. "I think we've reached a point with movies where audiences have tired of seeing cool effects wrapped around stories that don't deliver," he explains. "While it's theoretically possible for low-budget producers like myself to deliver JURASSIC PARK-quality effects now, I think we need to concentrate on delivering fresh ideas and solid stories first and foremost. After that, everything is just icing on the cake."
For J.R. Bookwalter, this year's cake comes in the form of THE SANDMAN, his thriller that takes maximum advantage of technology to lift old-fashioned horror filmmaking into the `90s.

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