The Special FX

The wristwatch Zak finds is actually a top-secret device developed by one of his father’s former students, now working for the high-tech company, Quantum Technologies. The device speeds up the molecules of whoever wears it, thus rendering him invisible. Perhaps more important, the watch also allows Zak and Francesca to have some fun changing things in the world without anyone’s knowledge. For example, there’s the rave scene, with four hundred extras at a DJ’s dance party.

“It’s a hip, funny sequence with great special effects,” explains producer Julia Pistor. “The really fun part is watching the kids help their friend Meeker (Garikayi Mutambirwa). Using the watch, they slip into hypertime to jazz up his scratches and his dance groove, with no one the wiser, including Meeker – remember, they cannot be seen while in hypertime.”

The fun of being invisible in hypertime can, however, be unexpectedly stopped.

“With a device that dispenses liquid nitrogen, people in hypertime can be frozen, thereby slowing down their molecules and bringing them back to real time,” explains executive producer Albie Hecht. “Zak, Francesca and Dopler create a liquid nitrogen shooter by adapting actual paint guns which they get from Meeker, who works in an extreme sports store. I think it’s a terrific way to maintain a sense of jeopardy and adventure in the film, and yet not fall back into the easy thing of getting out an AK-47 and blowing away people’s heads. The creation of the adapted paint guns is a good way to bring the technology to a level that any audience can understand – instead of shooting paint or bullets, they shoot frozen liquid nitrogen.”

Jesse Bradford relished his special effects scenes in the film.

“We’re doing some really cool shots like they did in ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Charlie’s Angels,’” says Bradford. “There’s a camera moving around us in the middle of a stunt as we’re leaping or kicking.”

Visual effects supervisor Michael Fink recalls one scene in particular that requires Bradford to dive for a valve.

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“Jesse has to jump, and we have to get him really far very fast, so we put him in what’s called a fly rig,” explains Fink. “It’s a harness apparatus operated by the special effects guys that allows an actor to jump and be carried on a cable. We then surround him with still cameras in a large semi-circle so that we can look at him from a range of 180 degrees.”

“It’s a really complicated array shot,” adds Hurd, “using over ninety cameras to create the effect. I think it will really astonish audiences.”

“You get those sorts of shots in commercials or music videos, but you can’t normally do that in the middle of a feature film because it just stops the reality of the situation,” adds visual effects producer Jacqui Lopez. “But the sci-fi premise of ‘Clockstoppers’ lends itself to a very stylized visual look. It was really exciting to try to figure out what that would look like, and what we’d want to see by stopping time.”

The onscreen combination of people simultaneously in hypertime and normal time was tricky to manage, and the club scene is a prime example of just how difficult the process is.

“Usually we can shoot someone against a blue screen, along with someone else on the set, and do it as a composite shot” says Lopez. “But in this instance, the ‘invisible’ actors had to work with a third ‘visible’ person in that Zak and his girlfriend had to actually manipulate Meeker into cool dance moves. We did this by having Meeker remain motionless while Zak was walking around normally, and to achieve the hypertime effect, we manipulated the speed of the film, normal to fast, starting at twenty-four frames per second and then speeding up to three hundred and sixty. It gets complicated, but the effect is pretty cool.”

“Clockstoppers” was filmed in mid-winter, 2001, in Los Angeles and Orange County locations that included Long Beach Airport, the city of Orange, homes in Pasadena and Altadena, the Verizon Building in Westlake Village and the Biltmore Hotel. The production also employed the Boeing facility in Downey for various visual effects and to stage the “clean room” set, which is the high-tech science lab where the climax of the film takes place.

Release Date: 11 Oct 2002

Distributor: UIP

Cert: PG

Running Time: 94 mins

Click Here To Watch The Trailer To Clockstoppers