Adam Savage Examines the Mother Ship Model from Close Encounters of the Third Kind!


There’s an amazing thing when you first
walk into this room which is this. I recognized it immediately. This is the
mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, up there for me with the ET
mothership. It’s one of the most beautiful weird wonderful alien
spaceships ever built and this was built by a lot of my old friends at Industrial
Light and Magic. The plaque here points out that there’s lots of little
in jokes in some of the detailing. There’s an R2D2. There’s a U.S. mailbox.
There’s another feature which I haven’t quite located yet after looking a little
bit but I guarantee you that the names of all the model makers are inscribed
somewhere on this model because when you’re working on something this tedious
you have to break up the tedium with jokes. This is an interesting thing I
hadn’t seen before. These spheres are actually clear acrylic spheres and it
looks like they’ve made the rear of them slightly reflective and then they’ve
masked out these tiny little windows so that no matter which way the camera is
pointing from they might light up a little bit to give a little extra detail.
This is a classic Industrial Light and Magic model making move, which is to do these very small things that add weird little bits of scale you don’t
expect and make the model feel even bigger. You go, and you get to around here
and you look, you can start to see that many of these little blips here on this
row? Are the ends of fiber optic lines so they could light up thousands
of little tiny windows — what looks like little tiny windows — and each pinpoint
add scale. There’s no uncanny valley with this. There’s no point at which the
detailing breaks down. It is just so magnificently detailed even down to all the little lights. I wish … Can they light this up? They can’t
light this up, I don’t think they light it up anymore. Lit, it’s got fiber optics
to come all the way out to all the ends of these spires. Yeah. This is one of the
masterpieces of practical special effects.

100 thoughts on “Adam Savage Examines the Mother Ship Model from Close Encounters of the Third Kind!

  1. We had SUCH a great time at the Smithsonian in DC. In case you missed them, here's where you can find our other videos from that trip: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJtitKU0CAeiJ7tjkIqcrRPfIYZHPW643

  2. I remember when I was a kid and someone asked if I'd seen close encounters of the third kind, I lied and said I'd only seen the second one. I shit you not

  3. I can't believe you were in the area and didn't stop by to buy me a beer! You said the names are on there somewhere. Check the headstones on the little cemetery. They may have put the names there.

  4. I've always loved that ship. But it never seemed to be quite at the correct scale in the movie. It looks too small during the contact sequence…. Still, so COOL!

  5. As an excited kid I remember buying a little brown envelope of those very same 'Grain of wheat light-bulbs' from Moores Handicrafts Rugby, Warwickshire in 1978… the pre-LED age. This was the same weekend I discovered I could 'recharge' batteries by placing them in front of a fire… Not so clever. DO NOT try this at home kids… I am a trained professional remember. 😱🏆

  6. Well this sucks if this model was light up and it was a show of a how it looks like it ain't for the movie of a sinus infection and to a model about to see something about it that many people want to see it that it's the truth right to your butt and they cannot just how you say I do open it and light it up because sometimes that is really difficult to find a blueprint that where was the connection where was the replacement and where was the for closing and opening of a new future and someday it will be light up again but this is only just tomorrow it is staying up very carefully that some models of a science-fiction that it could be light up anyway so everyone knows

  7. What do you mean they don't light it up anymore!? :U That's horrible. it should be working and given the care it needs…

  8. Still a beautiful model after all these years.
    Close Encounters is still one of the finest science fiction movies of all time.

  9. Adam said he was looking for something he had not spotted yet and mentioned names of model makers inscribed in the model. Was that what he meant he was looking for? In that case, is this it here at 1:23, in braille?

  10. Has anyone else ever realized that Adam looks exactly like "Richard" from the UK tv show "Keeping up Appearances", especially when Richard is wearing glasses.

  11. Did someone ever though that the builder's names may be in braille on the light dots?

    I could spend a whole day looking at such models

  12. You actually see the many HO scale train track connectors all over, for those who played with electric trains will notice 😉

  13. I saw this model when it was stored at the support/storage facility for the Air and Space Museum, the Paul E. Garber Facility
    . This was in the late 90's. The gentleman there giving the tour said he had been doing tours years and he would still manage to find small hidden or discrete pieces that he had missed in the past. True model artistry.

  14. Too bad you can't find the smaller drone ships on display. I can't even find production images of the things. I suppose they took them apart or re-purposed them.
    Neat little find, though. Too bad they don't light the thing up anymore.

  15. The model was not built by ILM, it was built by Greg Jein. Though some of the Modeler’s went on to work for ILM.

  16. When I was a kid, Close Encounters wasn't cool. It was Star Wars / ESB or nothing. I still had a Close Encounters lunch box, though. I love the mothership and the little scout ships in this. The lighting was pretty amazing. I still consider it one of the most beautiful sci-fi movies, with special effects that hold up today.

  17. The Pentagon has officially released 3 UFO videos captured by the US Navy FA18s. The UFOs defied the laws of physics said the Navy pilots. Senators are now having briefings from the Pentagon on UFOs according to CNN. Alien life is visiting our world Fact

  18. You mentioned that the model makers names are on the model but you couldn't find them. At 1:23, just throwing it out there, could they have put their names in braille using the lights?

  19. Very small things…next to a fucking philps head screw…poor craftsmanship and artists putting names and RD2 etc is childish and unprofessional.

  20. What? Maybe 10% of the model was seen in the theater? That model is incredible! Too bad more of it was not shown. Did not know this! Thanks man! :O)

  21. "Can they light it up?" – oh my heart leapt for a second there. I thought I was going to see it lit.

  22. I was just nine when the movie came out. I can remember my parents coming home from it it really animated and exited about it for a couple of days. I watched it with them again Sunday night it's still a fabulous film that's stood the test of time thanks to great models. actors and director.

  23. I saw Close Encounters when I was 7 years old. I always wondered where the actual ufo models went to. Thanks, Adam!

  24. What exactly is the point of putting it on display without having it "plugged in" for full effect? What a damn joke honestly.

  25. If you look at the "barrels" around the waist of the model there are tiny bumps, or maybe fiber optic ends. They ALMOST look like braille, that may be where the model makers names are.

  26. only humans would make up such savage brutal inhumane ship with so much guns, you dont see such primitive hostile ship in real life.

  27. I assume when this ship landed, they extracted the stow away, R2-D2,'s memory drive and from that we got The Star Wars chronicles, eventually they were made into mainstream films, which is why Elliot has Star Wars action figures and at the same time E.T. recognizes the Yoda species when he sees the kid in the costume.
    The films tie together.

  28. WTF? Either light the damn thing or give it to someone who has the competence to do it! It is such a waste to just let it sit collecting dust as a dead model!!!

  29. Great model, it's appearance from behind Devils tower is one of the top icon film scenes from 70's cinema. Shame it doesn't light up anymore, but no doudt a number of people have allready photographed every inch of the model to make a studioscale replica.

  30. I saw this back in March of this year. Was doing a FAST walk through of the museum as I didn't get there till after 4. Saw the space shuttle and it was closing time. Just noticed it as I was leaving and did a quick walk around. Knew what it was instantly but almost missed it as it is a little out of the way.

  31. I knew they added their own ‘detail’ but i never knew R2 was on there lol.
    I remember that film like it was yesterday. As a kid, it just reinforced my love for science and space immeasurably.

    Thanks Adam.
    You are doing the sane with your pure enthusiasm, getting kids involved, inspiring the next generation.
    👍🇬🇧

  32. There's something very fulfilling about watching one expert unabashedly admiring and praising the work of another. Free of ego, free of pride, just a person who appreciates the hard work of the people in their field.

  33. Fun fact play the tune they play to the ship backwards ad two more notes and you have “all things bright and beautiful”

  34. The light squares or bumps on the model seem to have a pattern. Especially on the cylindrical, for the lack of a better word, "fuel tanks."
    The pattern reminds me of Braille.
    Wouldn't that be clever if the makers inscribed their names on the model in braille. Adam did say there were windows and fiber optics. Wouldn't it be amazingly clever, that instead of raised dots they did it in light. "light and magic"

  35. So cool. It's be awesome to build a brand new larger scale updated LED version — with colored lights. Maybe a FUNKO toy version too.

  36. If it has fiber optics, it could have a lead somewhere you could use a light source outside the display . This way viewers could get an idea of the lighting in person.

  37. When it comes to modelmaking it’s always the small little details that make the overall big picture of the model amazing interesting and quite beautiful. You’ve said it all so well Mr. savage you’ve said it well again indeed

  38. As far as lighting iis concerned when it comes to fiber optics you only need one light for all the ends Of the fiber optics to illuminate also if these model makers were and they were so detailed in everything they did I’m sure their electrical work was top notch. So light the damn thing because without it being lit up it’s really not that impressive

  39. I'll tell you a secret that only a few know. All those little dots that are lit with fiberoptics are actually laid out in Braille and they spell the names of all the people that built the model.

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