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Working with smoke and lasers on The Manhattan Project


Creating rain for The Manhattan Project
Billy Williams Film-maker
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Well, previously, whenever I've done rain effects, the... the special effects turn up with... with these standpipes which are about 12’ high, and they put them in a ring round the set and sometimes they put them on platforms and the water's forced up, under pressure, and the rain comes out in circles, you've got rain doing like this and I've always found it very difficult to get a consistency and to make it look believable that the rain is falling, because with these standpipes it's doing this, you see. Well, in New York, we had this marvellous device which was like a giant Catherine wheel. I suppose it was about 25, 30’ in diameter and it had got outlets... water outlets all the way round this giant wheel. The wheel was hoisted up on a cherry picker to a height of about 60 or 70’ ; the water pressure was put on and when that happened, this wheel went round like a Catherine wheel and the water was shot out and of course, came straight down, like rain does. And it covered a huge area, almost the size of a football pitch, and it... it was so convincing. And of course, if you wanted to move it, all you had to do is drive it down the road. It was so easy to move from one setup to another. We had a very extensive rain scene, both at the back and the front of this... this science research laboratory on location.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 1 minute, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008