Among the most striking moments in "Titanic" are its transitions from the present to the past as 101-year-old Rose Calvert begins to recount her amazing tale. With the video monitors displaying the shattered hull of the ship in the background, Rose paints her own vivid image of a beautiful April day in 1912. Slowly, the ruin of Titanic is dramatically restored on screen to its regal glory at Southampton -- and the arrival of its passengers who had no idea of the tragic voyage ahead.
No less remarkable was the actual ship set itself. As the Halifax portion of the film progressed, one of the most complex undertakings in modern filmmaking began to take shape in Rosarito Beach, located in the state of Baja California in Mexico. It was here where the filmmakers decided to shoot the 1912 sequences of "Titanic," which constitute the bulk of the film. The combined efforts of a massive team of artists, craftsmen and engineers would recreate a nearly full-size, 775-foot long exterior shooting set of Titanic as well as the seven-acre, 17-million-gallon seawater tank in which to sink her.
Producer Jon Landau says the decision to build the largest shooting tank in the world, as well as additional filming stages in Rosarito, was made after a global search from Poland to the United Kingdom to Malta to Australia and throughout the U.S. and Canada..
"No single existing site in the world could contain the scale of our production and the attendant facilities that were required to film the scenes that Jim Cameron envisioned," Landau says. "In order to support the scope of the film and to be able to facilitate both interior and exterior production, it was more efficient to custom-build it all in one place."
With masterful planning, the extraordinary challenge of readying production of "Titanic" in Mexico was realized in a remarkably short period of time. Construction on the Fox Baja Studios began May 30, 1996 on a 40-acre beach front parcel of land. The state-of-the-art facility featured a 17-million-gallon exterior tank, a 5-million-gallon interior tank housed in a 32,000-square-foot sound stage and three traditional stages.
A scant 100 days after ground-breaking, principal photography began. And looming majestically against the breathtaking Mexican coastline was the 775-foot exterior set of Titanic, standing 45-feet from the water line to the boat deck floor, its four distinctive funnels towering another 54-feet against a timeless horizon. Titanic sailed again.