Daniel WrayMrs. MaxwellBrit. Lit.11/01/11 Special Effects The world of Special Effects (Visual Effects, fx, vfx) has always been one of the mostimportant aspects of any kind of video production. Special effects create the “oooh, ahh” effectthat people get when they watch movies. This area of the film production industry covers a widespectrum including physical effects that are used while the movie, commercial, is beingrecorded. Then, there is the behind the scenes portion. VFX is truly one of the most influentialprocesses of filmmaking and it has greatly advanced throughout the years. The history of specialeffects is extremely fascinating along with the process of implementing these effects; with bothof these the development of movies over the years has become possible. Special effects go as far back as the 1700’s. Magicians used special effects in many oftheir acts such as spiritism (Luis Carrera). This was done by placing a semi transparent slide infront of a light source to project an image onto some kind of background whether is be a screenor a wall. Then in the 1800’s came the first paid motion picture show was staged. We still see alittle of this today with comedic acts and commercials. The use of the projector and camera wereused to portray different scenes in different places. For example,old western movies were madeby using a projector behind a screen to display a certain scene or scenario. Then the camera,which was positioned in front of the screen, recorded the background being project while theactor(s) and/or actress(s) performed in front of the screen. Many times, in this era, if this method
is used a conveyor belt is lain below the acting area so that the illusion of the actor/actress’swalking could be conveyed. Throughout the years we have created many new forms of specialeffects such as the smoke/fog machine, robotics, blood bags etcetera. Fog machines are almostalways used to create a sense of uncertainty and even a dark and gloomy feeling. A goodexample of this would be in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in the scene whereHarry has to proceed through the shrub maze. The makers of this movie used fog machines tomake the audience feel anxious, but not only does it do that but it also makes the audience moreattentive to what is happening and it increases their sight for detail. Fog machines can even beused for simple purposes such as making a small amount of fog coat a lake or small pond.Details like these make the movie seem even more legitimate. Its is truly only been about tenyears that the use of special effects software, such as Adobe After Effects, has been put into play.Nowadays, there is quite a bit of postproduction special effects implementation that occurs.Some general examples of this would be the animation of some explosions, there are still a lot ofmovies that create actual explosions and have special effects animators just up scale it a little.One excellent example of postproduction special effects is in the movie Gamer. The scene whereKable is walking through the battlefield and we are in a 3rd person point of view and the (HUD)Heads up display is visible in red around the edges of the screen. The history of visual/specialeffects has countless amounts of breakthroughs and enhancements. Next on the list is JurassicPark being the first movie using CGI (Computer generated imagery). There were many Dinosaurmovies, but Jurassic park was the first to include computer-generated dinosaurs. In the scenewhere the T-Rex is storming down the city street flipping cars the T-Rex was actually computergenerated. CGI can be used in many different situations. In fact, CGI is used in almost all
modern movies. Movies like Monster Inc. are completely computer generated. Anything fromthe buildings, trees, grass, and even the hair on the characters are all computer generated. The process of making a movie or any other type of video is actually very complex. Thefirst and probably the most important step is to have an idea. Once you have the idea you are ableto make a script, which will enable you to determine how exactly you want your video to looklike. The next step is storyboarding; Storyboarding allows the maker of the film to sketch outhow they want each shot to look and what is heard throughout the video. Once the storyboardingprocess is complete, the moviemakers start contacting agent for the people they want in thevideo. This can be a long and very tedious process but usually pays off in the end. Then comefilming, this process can take 6-8 months depending on how long the movie is. After comesPostproduction. Post Production consists of all the editing that come along with making a film. The actual editing process takes quite awhile depending on what actually needs to bedone. The reason for this is because each little effect has to be entered individually. It’s not assimple as photo shopping a still image onto another still image. The whole editing process cantake many months to complete. The Editors now what to add in mainly because of the storyboardthat was made long before the movie even is filmed. Next come the actual addition of the effects.First the editor has to figure out what effects he/she needs to apply. Some examples would be,muzzle flash, some explosions, earthquakes, different light effects like neon streams runningbehind the motorcycles in the movie Tron. Next the Fx artist has to determine what the effectneeds to look like, such as color, shape, size, etc. This is determined by the surroundings,lighting, time of day, the object the effect is originating from and so forth. Once the Fx artistknows exactly what they need to apply they can begin by tracking the motion of the film. This isdone because if they just tried to add the effect right on the film the effect would just stay on that
same part of the screen no matter if the object it is originating from is moving or not. Motiontracking is basically locking on to one area of the screen and as you play the film the computerwill track how bad the film moves. After motion tracking, the editor can start adding in theeffects and connecting them to the motion track. Doing the motion tracking is probably theeasiest part of the whole editing process, because all that has to be done is selecting a certainregion to track and starting the motion tracking process via command. There is an infiniteamount of effects that can be added to a film clip. The only reason that no more effects could beadded would be because the screen was completely covered. The Harry Potter movies are probably one of the most popular movie series. It consistsof eight movies, Sorcerer’s stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire,Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and finally Deathly Hallows parts one and two. In eachof these films special effects are added throughout the story. Each spell has to be animateddifferently because of the uniqueness of each individual cast. All of the steps of special effectsediting are used in this process, including, motion tracking, basic color choice etc. Avatar, one of the biggest blockbuster hits ever, took approximately four years to filmand edit. Probably the most extraordinary features of this film is that it is mostly CGI (computergenerated). The scenes where filmed on small sets with a green screen backdrop [A Green screenis used to put non existing features in the background]. 100% of the animals are computergenerated. Another key aspect of the movie is that each of the navi had to be acted out by realactors before editors could replace them with a navi body. This is done by attaching little radiosensors onto an actor, and when the actor moves they transmit a signal showing exactly how theymoved and how fast they moved.
The movie Gamer has some very unique forms of special effects. Including some reallystrange backdrops integrated wit a green screen and a HUD [Heads Up Display] just like a videogame. All effects like these can be done using a program such as Adobe After Effects. All in all, special effects have been used even before movies were even being made.Magicians used special effects to create the illusion of different spirits. In today’s world this ismajorly unrealistic. But throughout the years special effects have progressed greatly to a pointthat we can even create whole new worlds with just a computer on place real people in theseworlds. Sure, people can make films without special effects. But, where is the true interestfactor? It lies in the art of special effects.
Works CitedCarrera, Luis. "The History of Special Effects." The Revolution of Special Effects in Movies. Luis Carrera, Sept.-Oct. 8, 15, 2011. Web. 15 Sept. 2011. <http://utminers.utep.edu/lacarrera/history.htm>."Computer Animation." Britannica School Edition.N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com.proxygsu-sche.galileo.usg.edu/eb/ article-9113602?query=CGI&ct=null>."Computer-generated imagery." Wikipedia. N.p., 24 Sept. 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer-generated_imagery>."Computer science." Britannica School Edition.N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com.proxygsu-sche.galileo.usg.edu/eb/ article-21968?query=computer%20animation&ct=null>.