How they made that spectacular Harrison Ford bus/train jump in ‘The Fugitive’ with practical FX, miniatures and optical front projection tech

Let’s celebrate 30 years of ‘The Fugitive’.

Today on the befores & afters podcast, we’re taking a retro VFX look back at director Andrew Davis’ 1993 film The Fugitive, which is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The film features a stunning train wreck and prison transport bus sequence, one that was made possible with the help of visual effects from Introvision and visual effects supervisor William Masa.

Introvision was a variation on front projection (you can see the patent for the invention here). What it added to the mix was the ability to place an actor in between a background plate and some foreground imagery using a combination of projectors/beam splitters/reflex or Scotchlite screens and the cinema camera. And, importantly, it did this as an ‘in-camera’ composite, meaning the results could be seen directly in the viewfinder.

In the case of The Fugitive and its train crash sequence, Introvision was used to place Harrison Ford on top of a bus that gets hit by a train, forcing Ford’s character to leap away. There were also some other projection set-ups to show him running from the train and leaping to safety.

From the Introvision patent: FIG. 1 is a schematic and diagrammatic view of the composite photography system afforded by this invention, wherein the basic photography equipment is contained in a cabinet which views two externally positioned reflex front projection screens located in a small studio room; and FIG. 2 is a schematic diagrammatic view of a simplified form of the composite photography system, illustrated in FIG. 1.

Introvision was a technique that — during the 80s and 90s — proved to be an excellent alternative to optical bluescreen compositing work. This all changed of course as digital compositing came into play in the early to mid-90s.

William Mesa and his crew with the miniature used for the train sequence. Source.

In my chat here with William Masa (who now runs Flash Film Works), we go into work done on the train sequence, including capturing the full scale crash, the miniatures work, and the Introversion stage work with Harrison Ford.

William also shares some fun stories about a tornado warning on set, a close call with the real train, how director Peter Weir convinced Harrison Ford to re-do a jump stunt despite an injured ankle, and what happened to the train miniatures after filming.

This episode of the befores & afters podcast is sponsored by SideFX. Head to SideFX’s Houdini Hive rooms at SIGGRAPH 2023 in Los Angeles — August 8 to 10 — for in-depth presentations from industry professionals. Presenters including representatives from companies such as DNEG, Weta Digital, Rise, Folks VFX, Nvidia and Theory Accelerated, as well as incredible presenters including Rich Lord, Matt Estela, Matt Ebb, Ben Watts and Urban Bradesko. Find out more at SideFX’s website for room details and how to score a FREE Exhibits Only pass to SIGGRAPH so that you can attend the Houdini Hive.

Listen in to the podcast below, and also check out some Introvision-related clips.

Need After Effects and other VFX plugins? Find them at Toolfarm.

3 Replies to “How they made that spectacular Harrison Ford bus/train jump in ‘The Fugitive’ with practical FX, miniatures and optical front projection tech

  1. Thank’s very much. I love that movie.
    I hope someday you will talk about the raft jump in Indiana Jones and the temple of doom.
    I haven’t seen any picture or making video that can explain this amazing real effect.

      1. Harlan Ellison’s review of TEMPLE OF DOOM touched on that raft scene, saying if they’d paid attention to gravity it would have been even more exciting, since on the way down the raft would have flipped and they’d have been hanging from it rather than laying inside it. After reading that, I started thinking that if they had somebody like Gilliam’s miniatures guy on BRAZIL for this film, it could have been a seriously awesome scene.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: