Fake Plastic Crowds
April 8, 2011 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Does your movie have a large crowd scene? Extras and CGI are expensive! Why not go with an Inflatable Crowd?

Video of a set up.
Flickr sets 1 2
posted by yellowbinder (56 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Heh.

Of course, if you are using old school minatures dyed cotton buds make a very good crowd.
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on April 8, 2011


Losing your job to an airhead is an American tradition.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:53 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I thought this was going to be a clever name for some kind of Final Cut plugin.
posted by echo target at 1:53 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I bet you could use these in a big church wedding (have them "sit" in the back) and the bride and groom wouldn't notice.
posted by Monday at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


imagine the versatility of such a schema.
posted by clavdivs at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2011


Can they hold protest signs?
posted by doublehappy at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


P.S. In case you are curious about our successful defense in the patent lawsuit filed against us by Crowd in a Box in 2007...

That just makes me laugh. I'm not sure why.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Seems that they successfully defended themselves against a patent infringement lawsuit filed by competitor, Crowd In A Box.

Company owner's response "We are grateful but not surprised by Judge Klausner's ruling," Inflatable's owner Joe Biggins said. "The use of dummies has been a part of filmmaking for most of its history. We have always welcomed fair competition on a level playing field. May the best mannequin win."
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:01 PM on April 8, 2011


That's half your defense budget savings right there.
posted by furtive at 2:02 PM on April 8, 2011


Finally! The perfect accessory to the applause soundtrack I've wired up for the bedroom!
posted by fatbird at 2:05 PM on April 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


heh. I believe they did actually use inflatable decoys in WWII.
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Did people start paying extras?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:06 PM on April 8, 2011


This is a great example of the substitutability of capital for labor which I'm totally using next semester in my micro theory class.
posted by scunning at 2:07 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Poor Ron Sexsmith, you'll have a hit soon enough.
posted by oulipian at 2:09 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The use of dummies has been a part of filmmaking for most of its history.

As a former screenwriter, I can confirm this.
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm disappointed not to see Airplane! on their films list.
posted by 7segment at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


heh. I believe they did actually use inflatable decoys in WWII.

They did and still do.
posted by furtive at 2:13 PM on April 8, 2011


My wife was in the audience for a taping of "Circus of the Stars" in Vegas many years ago. It was taped during the day and most of the crowd was actually cardboard cutouts. The cameras just panned across the crowd and only stopped when they got to the real people. It's the part she remembers the best, for some reason.
posted by tommasz at 2:13 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed not to see Airplane! on their films list.

or Blow-Up
posted by hal9k at 2:14 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man!
posted by msbutah at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, that solves the problem of the orgy scene in my next porn movie.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:18 PM on April 8, 2011


I'm disappointed not to see Airplane! on their films list.

or Blow-Up


Or late-career Brando pictures.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:18 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


this idea of use as a dummy was used by a women on a southern california freeway, she dressed an inflatable with clothes, hair, etc, and sailed along in the carpool lane, which states two persons must be in vechile or the car will be issued a car pool lane traffic ticket, one day a highway patrol officer noticed the other person not moving after driving next to the vehicle for some time. she then signed the ticket. a women seven months expecting, claimed two persons in car, despite the fact the baby was yet born, she claimed close enough to qualify, she lost her case in traffic court, but brought smiles to all in the court room.
posted by taxpayer at 2:32 PM on April 8, 2011


I'm disappointed not to see Airplane! on their films list.

or Blow-Up

Or late-career Brando pictures.


Or Waukesha, Wisconsin.
posted by perhapses at 2:33 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I eagerly await the surrealist film starring an inflatable crowd.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2011


Well, that solves the problem of the orgy scene in my next porn movie bedroom.

Fixed that for me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:50 PM on April 8, 2011


Bill Blass is the father of the secret dummy.
posted by clavdivs at 2:54 PM on April 8, 2011


OK well I guess I was totally duped by that one. I checked out their site, looked at the examples, looked at the 'prep' scenes where you can see the nekid bodies and it wasn't until the movie of them pulling the dummies out of the van that it occurred to me these weren't CGI crowds. I even saw the inflating ports on the back of the heads and thought "well isn't that clever!". I did wonder why they had CGI people stacked on the coat rack like cordwood though.

Honestly 'inflating' would be a cool thing to call a CGI process.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:01 PM on April 8, 2011


As I recall, Costa-Gavras used blow-up dummies in the makeshift morgue scene in Missing when Beth Horman goes looking for the body of her husband. There's a moment when she looks up to a skylight and sees it piled with bodies, all of which (per the commentary) were inflatable.
posted by mykescipark at 3:22 PM on April 8, 2011


It the uk we have cardboard policemen
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:25 PM on April 8, 2011


It seems The King's Speech was full of air!

or other inert gas
posted by not_on_display at 3:39 PM on April 8, 2011


"The use of dummies has been a part of filmmaking for most of its history..."

They prefer the term "talent" or "star"
posted by not_on_display at 3:40 PM on April 8, 2011


Wow. Much more impressive than the WACKY WAILING INFLATABLE TUBE MEN that I expected.

On the other hand, all that flesh-colored plastic freaks me out. Also, where's the diversity? Is the stadium in that video supposed to be a tea party rally or something?
posted by schmod at 3:42 PM on April 8, 2011


schmod: "Wow. Much more impressive than the WACKY WAILING INFLATABLE TUBE MEN that I expected."

Although it would be pretty hilarious to see a few of those guys waggling around in the background of this shot.
posted by brundlefly at 4:41 PM on April 8, 2011


Monday: then they would probably need one of these.
posted by Duug at 4:42 PM on April 8, 2011


I thought this was going to be a joke site or something but no, totally serious.
posted by shelleycat at 5:45 PM on April 8, 2011


I can't quite accept that it's somehow cheaper to dress a gaggle of blow-up extras in wigs and outfits and makeup and whatnot than it is to just pay some people who already have hair and clothes and can wear makeup. I mean, I believe them. I just don't get it.
posted by Neofelis at 5:59 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually thought about that for a minute, Neofelis. If you assume that you have to pay an extra $10/day (which is almost certainly wildly low), that means a crowd of 5,000 will cost you $50,000/day. If you pay a team of 10 people for a week to set up your shot with inflatables instead, and those people cost $150,000/year (which is probably high), you're talking $28k to set up the same shot, and additional days will add only marginal costs. And, of course, you have to buy the dolls and clothes, but presumably those don't actually cost that much. (You might have to buy the clothes anyway, if it was a period piece; extras probably won't have them.)

If those numbers are more like $100/day per extra, and $60K each for the assembly team, you're talking $500k/day versus $11k per shot, plus material costs.

Even with cheap extras, that looks pretty appealing.
posted by Malor at 6:05 PM on April 8, 2011


I'm going to be looking a lot closer at crowd scenes after this.
posted by telstar at 6:24 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, if we bust the unions, it may not be again.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:42 PM on April 8, 2011


Of course, if you are using old school minatures dyed cotton buds make a very good crowd.

The long shot of the pod race stands in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was done that way. I thought it was CG until I saw a "making of" segment on TV and saw that they used a model with colored Q-tips. I usually just assume everything is CG nowadays.
posted by bobo123 at 7:25 PM on April 8, 2011


Further proof that, at the very least, practical effects make for a better story than anything CGI.
posted by toekneebullard at 8:38 PM on April 8, 2011


There's actually a fair amount of miniature work still being done these days. Especially on the really big budget stuff.
posted by brundlefly at 8:40 PM on April 8, 2011


A better story? I don't know about that. They're different tools and are useful for different things.
posted by brundlefly at 8:42 PM on April 8, 2011


I'm surprised that practical effects are still cheaper than CGI - I remember seeing Wishbone use CGI crowds in the 1990s or early 2000's (they had a making of special showing how they repeated a crowd in their version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and that was a kid's how made by PBS.
posted by jb at 8:50 PM on April 8, 2011


Now I know how fox manages to show all those people at the TEA party rallies
posted by MrLint at 9:09 PM on April 8, 2011


But what will happen to those screen gems such as that extra that was masturbating in the gym scene in Teen Wolf 2?
posted by spec80 at 9:20 PM on April 8, 2011


Nice Radiohead reference, yellowbinder.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:38 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


another way they fill out a crowd scene is to get all the extras huddled together in part of the set, film them for a bit, get them to move to another part of the set, film.. repeat until you have footage of people in every part of the shot, then composite all those elements into one shot.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:49 PM on April 8, 2011


They used inflatable dudes pretty heavily in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima for battle sequences.

I have, among my other VFX-related crap, a pic a coworker took for me (he's 6'3", I'm not, he got the better down-angle) of the inside of the mannequin truck for a shoot we did as part of getting some elements for Tron: Legacy. It looks like the last known photo of a human smuggling ring gone horribly wrong.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:25 PM on April 8, 2011


My artist sister had a studio in a questionable part of town. She and another sister stitched up a body, and painted a face on "Ralph" who sat in the back seat. All went well until someone thought "Ralph' was a dead body and called the police. Explanations ensued to get my sister off the wanted for murder list.
posted by Cranberry at 11:58 PM on April 8, 2011


>>The long shot of the pod race stands in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was done that way. I thought it was CG until I saw a "making of" segment on TV and saw that they used a model with colored Q-tips.

>Further proof that, at the very least, practical effects make for a better story than anything CGI.

Really? You're using Phantom Menace as your example of a "better story"??
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:00 PM on April 9, 2011


I wonder if the inflatable crowd addresses the bizarre gender imbalance which is that women (51% of the population) comprise only 17% of the crowd scene in most family movies?
posted by ErikaB at 2:59 PM on April 9, 2011


I usually just assume everything is CG nowadays.

A common assumption these days. I have a friend who does practical (on set) effects, and this makes him nuts.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:58 PM on April 9, 2011


It the uk we have cardboard policemen

Friend of mine and I saw one of those in a shop in my home town once, when I was in high school. (An American version, though, naturally). He had "Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted" written around his badge and all.

So naturally we stole him.
posted by rifflesby at 5:14 PM on April 9, 2011


Here's a video example (from a Shakira video, apologies for that). The crowd is quite obviously not human, but I would have never noticed.
posted by ikalliom at 3:12 AM on April 10, 2011


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