New York, NY, January 22, 1999 -- Recently, all of New York turned out to see the opening and dedication of THE TOP OF THE WORLD. No, it's not Mt. Everest or even K2, but the brand new completely renovated Observation Deck in Tower No. 2 of The World Trade Center. Complete with a new food court, New York memorabilia, upscale shopping and even program-it-yourself computer light signals to send messages into the cosmos, the new observation deck has it all, but the showcase attraction is Minolta's Manhattan Magic 'Sky Ride'.
Commissioned by Ogden Entertainment and produced by Image Work Communications of Los Angeles, this attraction was designed to run well into the next century with a fifteen year engagement at the World Trade Center. The Skyride, playing in three theaters simultaneously, simulates the helicopter flight through Manhattan. The audience sits on a multi access hydraulic powered platform that has been programmed and cued to the visuals playing on the screen giving the theater go-er all the feelings of acceleration, banking and altitude changes.
"Despite the fact that this is an attraction ride, the movie really is about the grandeur of the city," explained Aerial Director and pilot Ray McCort, "it really showcases the timeless landmarks that define the New York skyline." McCort was brought to the project by Producer John Lawrence who needed someone to facilitate the mammoth task entailed in mounting such an aerial production. McCort, a native New Yorker, is a Helicopter SAG Pilot with over 7,000 hours of flying time created Aerial Cinema Productions to be the first full service aerial production company based in New York. SOC member Joshua Narins and Evan Mower, not yet an SOC member at this time, (but we are still hopeful) were both chosen as camera operator.
The film starts flying through the clouds and reveals the Island of Manhattan, slides past the Statue of Liberty, then begins an exhilarating roller coaster ride in, through, around, under, and over the city's most famous sites. The project employed a Tyler Nose Mount, attached to a Bell JetRanger 206B helicopter, not only to capture a descend through the clouds at an altitude of 8,000' over the city, but also to make exciting low level runs over lower Manhattan, while negotiating the concrete canyons that make up most of the New York cities skyline.
The Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, were also featured participants, as well as a brief night time flyby, capturing the glamorous and glittery lights of the Times Square area. "We decided to shoot this using super 35mm, rather than with IMAX, it helped to keep the cost down considerably, trying not to sacrifice quality" explained Lawrence. The camera package devoted to the Tyler Nose Mount, included an Arri 353, all with Zeiss prime lenses. "We wanted to show as much movement as possible, so we were able to use somewhat longer lenses, that might not normally have been chosen in a typical aerial shot, using the Nose mount, commented Mower.
The panoramic views of the Trade Center icon structure, as well as the Statue of Liberty and the Queen Elizabeth 2 departing the Hudson River harbor, mandated the use of Advanced Camera System's Magnum Elite side-mount. Both Narrin's and Mower agreed that the Magnum gives the camera operator total control over the balance of all camera axis, especially when you combine it with gyro-assist.
Ray McCort of Aerial Cinema Productions is FAA Certified with an Approved Motion Picture Manual allowing them to provide safe and legal filming over Manhattan at low altitudes with FAA permission. "Since it was a project that would certainly benefit city tourism, the paperwork and permits were a little easier to obtain," commented McCort. An increasing number of Producers and Directors are availing themselves of ACP's unique offering. In addition to the special venue and interactive projects, Ray McCort, an associate SOC member has flown on many mainstream film productions, which include Stepmom, Blade, Daylight, and Eraser to name a few.
"We now have dueling buildings in New York City," joked McCort. The Empire State Building has a similar attraction, not as high tech, no moving platforms or computer calibrated aerial sequences, but certainly a note-worthy mention."