On The Helicopter Shadow in

The Shining

By Greg MacGillivray

With the release of Room 237 and several articles about Stanley Kubrick, I've been asked about the inclusion of the helicopter shadow in our shooting of the opening sequence in The Shining. I have read the report by our helicopter camera-person, Jeff Blyth, who has a terrific memory and great skills as a writer, and I would agree with all of Jeff's report, except for these aspects:

  1. Our Team did execute the shot which included the "shadow." Because we shot with two cameras, usually running simultaneously with two wide lenses, one a 9.8 mm (very wide "fisheye" type) and a 16mm, the shadow would come into the 9.8 mm shots when we got close to cliffs, as in this case.
  2. A British Team did do one aerial scene before we were engaged, at the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, but not the one with the shadow.
  3. Our Team photographed all the other second-unit aerials, even some of the "plate" shots and all the other second unit scenes.
  4. And that Stanley and I together reviewed all these scenes in London on the Steenbeck flatbed editing machine, with editor Ray Lovejoy, and discussed how to edit them. They then transferred the footage to video and edited electronically - one of the first feature films to use electronic editing. Stanley wanted to try it, especially because he had so much footage from which to pick. He and I discussed his ability, electronically, to categorize and cross-reference shots, and thus try different cuts of scenes without pulling apart taped splices on the work-print, had he edited on film. However, one thing he had not considered was exact frame-lines. So, in my estimation, when Stanley and Ray cut the opening scenes they never saw the helicopter shadow because the transfer from film to video did not have exact frame-lines. But, when the shot was negative cut and answer-printed to 35 mm, there it was - three frames of embarrassing shadow. That's my guess. I never discussed it with Stanley, even when he called and discussed my directing/shooting second-unit scenes for Full Metal Jacket a few years later. How this seemingly small mistake occurred in Stanley's otherwise perfect technical career is odd, but forgiven. There will never be another genius like Stanley Kubrick.

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