Raising the bar with documentary The Flag
Updated: 2011-07-01 08:11
By Sun Li (China Daily)
A creative visual effects team ensures The Flag, a 10-episode documentary presenting the course of 90 years of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is hoisted in magnificent fashion.
Massive amounts of liquid steel are poured from a gigantic furnace, creating flaming sparks that resemble splashing raindrops. The fiery current, sizzling and bubbling, gradually fills a big mold in a CPC emblem shape, which then glints like gold.
The opening 45-second clip opens every episode of the documentary and is called a "triumph" by visual director Zhou Jue.
"The documentary is filmed to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, and what we need is a highly compelling and powerful start," Zhou says.
Zhou, who undertook the task at the end of 2010, drew inspiration from his former project centering on a prestigious foundry. In that program, molten iron was poured into a mold in the shape of the foundry brand.
"That shooting process went well and the image turned out to be stunning," Zhou says. "I thought it would be great if I adopted a similar approach because the image of steel and fire would remind viewers of the CPC's fortitude and the struggles the Party has gone through."
The film location was at Liaoning province's Anshan Steel Company Limited, where the first steel of the People's Republic of China was made.
To familiarize themselves with the site and the scorching environment, Zhou and his crew visited the company three times.
"Compared with last time, this project included a larger mold and much more liquid steel, and the heat became a real challenge as the temperature of the liquid reached 1,800 C," Zhou says.
To ensure a vivid video, the production team had two molds built that were exactly the same.
The pouring process was filmed twice, with the crew enduring the heat for almost an hour, capturing every detail.
"The heavy equipment carried by the photographers got damaged, their heat-proof clothes were severely burned and the heat waves and smoke made one of the cameramen shed constant tears," Zhou recalls.
"Fortunately, we made it. The short opening footage consists of 25 takes, which was edited from hundreds of shots. It was the crystallization of our photographers' toil, sweat and tears."
Adding to the docu's visual splendor are large-scale scenes focusing on the capital city's landmarks, including Tian'anmen Square and Zhongnanhai, the central leadership compound in downtown Beijing.
"When audiences watch the high-definition, multi-angled and spectacular pictures intricately interwoven with the themes of the different episodes, they can hardly imagine the difficulty we encountered when shooting them," says Liu Xin, the visual director primarily in charge of the landmark filming.
Liu says cars, crew and time were restricted at some high security facilities and once he had to cram 12 people into one vehicle.
"Everyone twisted their bodies in funny ways to make some room. All seemed to hold their breath as the space was filled with pressure," Liu says.
"Sometimes, only half our team was allowed to enter the building, which meant we had to double our energy," Liu says, referring to the operation of the crane, dolly and wheeled platform on rails, which all contributed to the documentary's diversified shots.
"It caused muscle soreness, but it proved that the seeming 'mission impossible' was possible.
"When the flag is raised so charmingly, we are super glad to be the flag-bearers," Liu says.
The documentary premiered on CCTV-1 and will be aired on CCTV-7 from July 4 to 13.
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