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Immersed in Movies: Recreating Iconic Ebbets Field for Jackie Robinson Biopic '42'

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by Bill Desowitz
April 12, 2013 4:05 PM
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'42'
'42'

Getting Ebbets Field just right as the legendary home of the Brooklyn Dodgers was the greatest challenge for production designer Richard Hoover on "42," the stirring biopic about Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) as Major League Baseball's first African-American. It's both an arena and a battleground for Robinson's crusade in 1947 to fight racial prejudice and prove his greatness as a baseball player. But without digital enhancement they never could've made us believe we were there.

"The first thing we had to do was figure out what Ebbets Field was in a planned view and then continue an investigation in more detail," explains Hoover, who previously collaborated with "42" director Brian Helgeland on the gritty "Payback" "We were able to find scanned drawings and conjured various approaches. The best and most cost-effective approach was building a digital green screen from scratch, 1,200 feet long and 40-feet high and we could rely on VFX [from Hammerhead and overseen by production VFX supervisor Jamie Dixon] to handle the outfield and some of the infield.

"Fortunately, we discovered a stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Engel Stadium, which was in disrepair. It's one of the oldest existing ballparks [where Robinson actually played], and we were encouraged to use it to help energize the community to renovate it someday. We laid our Ebbets Field over that with a little bit of digital cheating. The Ebbets infield was on a piece of property that had an 80-degree angle and came to a point. So we took one of the sides of our existing stadium, which was 90 degrees, and rebuilt it out of wood and angled it in. Ebbets was very intimate and we wanted to make sure that we delivered that accurately and have a sense that you're really at the game."

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