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A Brief History of Movie Special Effects

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Corey Petrini

on 17 January 2014

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Transcript of A Brief History of Movie Special Effects

A Brief History of Movie Special Effects
Special Effects
The illusions or tricks of the eye used in the film, television, theatre, video game, and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a story or virtual world are traditionally called special effects (often abbreviated as SFX, SPFX, or simply FX).
Types of Special Effects
Optical effects (also called photographic effects), are techniques in which images or film frames are created photographically. An optical effect might be used to place actors or sets against a different background.
Types of Special Effects
Mechanical effects are usually accomplished during the live-action shooting. This includes the use of mechanized props, scenery, scale models, animatronics, pyrotechnics and atmospheric effects: creating physical wind, rain, fog, snow, clouds, etc.
Metropolis — Miniatures
• In his 1927 film, director Fritz Lang created the world of Metropolis using intricately detailed miniature models.

• Full-scale cityscapes were used alongside perspective techniques to create otherwise nonexistent environments.

• They used a specially made mirror that scaled down actors to create the illusion of interacting with huge, realistic-looking sets.

• A matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that is nonexistent in real life or would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to build or visit.

• The artist would set up a large plate of clear glass in front of the motion picture camera upon which he would carefully paint in new scenery.

The Wizard of Oz — Matte Paintings
• In 1963's Jason and the Argonauts, a pack of skeletons rise from the ground in an epic fight scene.

• The dueling bones were achieved by stop-motion photography, which uses realistic puppets or models that are manipulated and photographed one frame at a time.

Jason and the Argonauts — Stop Motion
• Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was the first film to deploy a motion-controlled camera.

• Hooked up to a computer, the Dykstraflex motion-control system (named after special-effects supervisor John Dykstra) issued a complicated series of movements to a camera, which allowed filmmakers like Lucas to create shots unlike any previously seen in movie theaters.

Star Wars — Motion Control
An American Werewolf in London — Makeup
• The first film to win the Academy Award for Best Makeup, 1981's horror-comedy An American Werewolf in London

• Metamorphosis of man into wolf.

• Prosthetics and robotic limbs were created by FX-makeup artist Rick Baker, who had previously worked on The Exorcist (1973) and the 1976 remake of King Kong.

• While Star Wars, Star Trek and Tron were all early adopters of CGI effects, it is Steven Spielberg and Pixar (a part of Lucasfilm at the time) who are credited with the very first realistic fully CGI-animated character

• 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes. Known as the "stained-glass man," the knight comes to life for a 30-second sword fight that took six months to produce.

Young Sherlock Holmes — CGI
(Computer Generated Imagery)
• The dinosaurs of 1993's Jurassic Park were part animatronic and part CGI.

• Out of the 14 minutes of the film's dinosaur footage, only four were rendered with computer graphics. The rest were shot using animatronic models — including a 20-foot T-Rex that weighed more than 13,000 pounds — and men in rubber Velociraptors costumes.

Jurassic Park — Animatronics/CGI
• 1995 - Pixar released Toy Story, the first feature-length animated film to be created with CGI.

• The film took four years to create, generated 1,000 gigabytes of data and required 800,000 machine hours of editing.

Toy Story — Animated CGI
• The Matrix was a stunning advancement in digital visual effects.

• Called bullet time, the film's effect used the slowed, rotating action of the camera to show characters evading bullets.

•Several cameras were set surrounding the character taking a series of images

The Matrix — Bullet Time
• Gollum's performance was driven by actor Andy Serkis.

•Using a specially created motion-capture suit, Gollum was digitally created by using 13 cameras pointed at different sensors attached to Serkis' costume.

• These sensors produced a 3-D image of Serkis' movements, allowing animators to create a more realistically moving character.

The Lord of the Rings — Motion Capture

• In 2009 director Kathryn Bigelow who changed film explosions with her Academy Award–winning film The Hurt Locker.

• Using the high-speed Phantom camera, Bigelow's team was able to break down every detail of an IED explosion with the device's 2,000-frames-per-second capability.

• Speed ramping is a process where the capture frame rate of the camera changes over time.

•Movies -24 frames per second.

• If you take pictures at 24 per second and play them at 24 per second, you’re going to see normal motion.

• If you take pictures at a thousand times per second, and then you play it back at 24 frames per second, you’re going to see a slow-down in the action based on the ratio of those numbers.

The Hurt Locker — Explosions

• James Cameron teamed up with Sony to create a specially designed camera built into a six-inch boom that allowed the facial expressions of the actors to be captured with sensors and digitally recorded for animators to use later.

• Tucked into tight bodysuits with tiny reflectors, the actors were filmed as infrared light bounced off the reflectors, which was then captured in 3-D by up to 140 digital cameras positioned around the set.

Avatar — 3-D

VIsual Effects Society Award 2013
Life of Pi
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