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'Independence Day' Movies Blow Up in HD

18 Oct, 2016 By: Stephanie Prange

Toys used to create visual effects for 'Independence Day'

Would he blow up the White House again?

That’s the question director/producer Roland Emmerich often fielded as he worked on Independence Day: Resurgence, released Oct. 18 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The alien destruction of the White House was one of the most memorable images from the 1996 original Independence Day (available now in re-release on disc).

“So many people asked me, ‘Will you blow up the White House? Will you blow up the White House?’ So I got a little nervous,” he said.

Emmerich did destroy the White House during production of the sequel, a deleted scene included on the extras of the disc, but it didn’t make it into the final film.

“I kind of thought it was cool not to destroy the White House this time,” Emmerich said. “It’s more original. I’m actually happy that I didn’t do it.”

“I remember reading the original screenplay and it says [the alien ship leg] just stops in the last second,” co-producer Volker Engel said. He thought, “This time we don’t destroy the White House. Excellent!”

Other deleted content on the disc extras includes a complex sequence featuring the defensive outpost on a moon of Saturn that was supposed to open the movie. It proved too confusing for the audience, Emmerich said, as there was another outpost on Earth’s moon.

“With great regrets we had to lose that sequence,” he said.

Much of the film was shot with blue screen. To fill in the background digitally for reference, filmmakers used a new tool that allowed them to see how the actors fit into the digital scene during shooting. The process is explored in the extras. While much of the effects are digitally produced, some are more concrete. The effects team built a full-sized moon tug ship and jet prop, also covered in the disc extras.

Engel mused about his rudimentary set construction in the original Independence Day, which featured toy jets and cars he bought from Toys ‘R’ Us.

“Each jet fighter was $2.95,” he said.

The shadow that falls over the Statue of Liberty in the original came from a rather mundane source.

“We asked these guys to back up their truck [to produce the shadow over the model],” Engel said.

Matching the effects of the 20-year-old original for re-release with the sequel involved pain-staking color correction and other techniques. The discs of the original and sequel are also available on Blu-ray Disc in 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR), which produces brilliant highlights, vibrant colors and greater contrast on compatible displays.

“We were lucky enough to get the original negative from Independence Day and scan it 4K and do a full restoration on it in 4K,” said colorist David Cole.

His team consulted with Emmerich and cinematographer Markus Forderer to perfect the restoration.

“With IDR coming out there were certain hues and colors that they wanted to continue through the process,” Cole said. “A big example of that is the color of the space ships. Inside the mother ship, the plasma bolts and everything like that is a very specific hue. In the original prints [of the first movie], even though it was intended to be the same color, it just wasn’t. So we needed to hone in on what the color was in IDR … and keep that consistent because there needs to be some continuity between films.”

HDR “allows us so much more range than what’s available in standard theatrical and standard home theater viewing environments,” Cole said.

“[Emmerich] wanted to update a 20-year-old film,” Forderer said. “He wanted to be true to the original but also show an updated version, show the film in its best quality. And I think it looks better than what you saw 20 years ago in the theater because now with HDR you see much more detail in the blacks and the highlights.”

In addition to deleted scenes, also available on the IDR disc are audio commentary by Emmerich; a making-of featurette; concept art; the featurette “The War of 1996,” which updates the events since the first movie; a faux show segment featuring Judd Hirsch’s character, “It’s Early, ABQ!”; and a gag reel.

About the Author: Stephanie Prange

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