George Mannes
August 27, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

That magical meteor that lands on The Meteor Man‘s Jefferson Reed (Robert Townsend) gives him extraordinary powers: He flies, he converses with his dog, he learns runway modeling in three seconds. But the green-glowing, pockmarked rock, for all its otherworldliness, had to look believable. Technicians at Industrial Light & Magic in San Rafael, Calif., accomplished that by giving the stellar stone three different behind-the-scenes incarnations:

· Playing the projectile in deep space was a sculpted piece of plastic about a foot in diameter with a green-filtered light inside.
· The meteor that chases Reed through an alley is a round piece of tin coated with a green-burning pyrotechnic concoction. The device was shot from below to make the eight-foot flames look like a comet’s tail.
· The glowing mass that melts into Reed’s chest is a computer-generated image, because ”we couldn’t come up with anything that would do that in reality,” says Bruce Nicholson, the film’s visual-effects supervisor. The 3-D rendering was later digitally inserted into live-action footage.

How did the technicians know how to do all this? It’s their métier, man.

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