THE 1/5 SCALE MODELS
Most of the external shots from
Moulin Rouge are actually of these
1/5 scale models. Artist Elex were
responsible for all practical lighting
both full scale and on the models,
which is a rare situation in film
production. The use of a single
entity provided the producers with
unparalelled ability to seamlessly
match the different scale sets making
it appear as a single set on film.
The above shot is a MoCon shot sweeping
above the rear of the Moulin Rouge and clearly
shows the miniaturised lighting and wiring.
This shot features at the very end of the film.
The shot to the left shows the same POV with
the set lit up. A number of globes were dropped
out during this sequence to give a sense of
"decay" setting in on the set at the end.
Every globe you see here was installed by hand
and soldered onto complex matrix grids of bare
painted copper wiring to make the wiring appear
invisible to the camera at the small scale used.
"Moulin Rouge" model shots were a
classic case whereby regular "christmas
lights" could not be used as they were not
bright enough and the intricacy of the sets
meant it would be impossible to hide
the associated wires. Tens of thousands
of "grain of wheat" globes between 3mm
and 5mm in size were individually attached
to the set by Artist Electronics staff. All
were powered using specially built toroidal
24v 32A power supplies capable of
connecting to the Gaffer's dimmers
allowing total control to match the full
size set. Every different task required a
different solution, often to tight budgets
and time frames.
By far the most photographed set on
Moulin Rouge was the Windmill. Three
different models were built, a 1/3 scale
(used mainly on the Howda set and outside the Main Hall entrance), a 1/5 scale unit (used outside virtually every set plus on the MoCon model stage) and a
third 1/3 scale unit (top half only) with special folding blades which was used outside the Gothic Tower. This unit was required due to a glaring mistake in design not noticed until after the set was built. If the original windmill was to be placed in the correct position the blades would extend about 1 metre into the concrete floor of the stage.. so a special "folding blade" unit was designed and built (it was a major pain in the neck to get it working properly!). The Windmills were never built very strong, and they required constant repairs. They were constantly being moved on forklifts and trucks and thus were regularly damaged.
The shots above, left and below are all of the 1/5 scale model
Garden set established at Mentmore Studios (Sydney) after
Moulin Rouge was literally thrown out of Fox. Ironically, these
mocon shots were still in progress in September 2000, after
Star Wars had built, used and destroyed their sets and
moved out of Fox leaving it empty for the following six months!
Although the resulting shots from this model set were truly stunning using pioneering special effects, the resulting cost far exceeded
the estimated cost of the full scale sets the previous year.
The Garden set (as will be seen in other pages here) used
extensive festooning which was "added and added" to the set
in the last days prior to shooting. When the time came to match
that look exactly using the 1/5 scale models, significant
problems resulted. The only solution was the slow way.. globe
by globe.. using solder, hair thin copper wiring and black
insulating tape in abundance.
All globes were actually 12 volt, however the distribution was 24
volt in order to minimise voltage drop over the thin wires. This
required very complex wiring ensuring all globes were wired in
pairs... Try explaining this to the other people on set... Impossible!
Still, the continuity between the various shots on the resulting
film is excellent, and after all.. it was good enough for an Oscar,
The photo to left shows the early days
of Windmill construction with the 1/3
scale unit ready for dressing with electrics
and the 1/5 scale under construction.
Originally it had been planned to build the
entire Moulin Rouge exterior outside
(possibly at Schofields Aerodrome) as
a single backlot set however this idea
was dropped in favour of using the models.
Whilst this idea may have initially been
financially attractive, all advantages were
wiped out as the production dragged behind
schedule and as a result, the main full
size Garden set was destroyed after only
five days' shooting (to make way for Star
Wars who had pre booked the Government
Pavilion at Fox (Stage 1) for their own
purposes. This then required a total
reconstruction of the set in 1/3 scale
to pick up all the shots that were never
completed.. and resulted in skyrocketing costs. In hindsight, it would have been cheaper to build the full scale backlot, and probably resulted in better (if that were possible) results.