Monday, July 13, 2015

How Snow and Ice Effects Were Created for Dr. Zhivago and Reveal of a Hidden Building

The frigid look of the Dr. Zhivago movie sets has always fascinated me because it looked so real (all that ice and snow effects were pre-computer generated, no CGI; in other words there were no computers used for designing backdrops.  The sets were handmade).  After some research my curiosity has now been satisfied and I am still impressed.   

Most of the filming for Dr. Zhivago was done on a studio set.  Thankfully it seems only some large crowd scenes were filmed outside in 80F+ degree heat which was for the most part in Spain.  You can image how the actors and extras were feeling, dressed in Russian winter woolens.  The actors had to have their faces dabbed every two minutes.  Thankfully, there must have been much cooler temperatures in the indoor studio sets.  

Production designer John Box and his crew transformed the Zhivago estate into an authentic Russian winter landscape.  Everything was built and created by hand, even the house.   For snow/ice effects inside and out (using the same building) all the architecture, chandeliers and furniture were sprayed with hot white wax, cold water was poured over everything and then sprinkled with marble dust.  The the effect was that of a frigid, glistening ice palace.  I would image giving a somewhat similar feeling of icy-ness as the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi in Sweden.  They are scenes I will never forget, even after 55 years!

At Sharif's passing I wanted to create an image portraying the movie as a kind of memorial.  Thinking I would like to create a digital work of the Zhivago estate in a snow scene, I took the movie set image of the house and put it into my photo editor to take a look  

In playing with the image I discovered another building emerging to left of the estate!  I was somewhat surprised this other building was not completely blocked out.  It probably wouldn't happen today just knowing what digital editors  are capable of.  In some instances it could be a little unsettling to suddenly have a building emerge in the background!  It can faintly be seen in the original image.  It reveals the countryside was not the vast view it shows in the movie.  Look closely at the first image below to the left of the Zhivago estate and then the second image below it with the yellow circled area.  If you can see the building in the first one your eyesight is excellent, no need to get glasses!  

I added the movie title to my image so now you have a choice; with or without the title.