Monday, 2 September 2013

Classic movie scenes: before and after special effects

Cloud City was actually a pile of old mattresses... (Words: Mark Lankester)
This article is reposted from
1Star Wars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, titles were tedious - then the opening ‘crawl’ of ‘Star Wars’ swept across the screen and made the simple act of reading as cinematic as any other part of the film. These titles (actually from 'The Empire Strikes Back') were produced surprisingly DIY-ish by slowly panning a camera along a 6 ft. piece of text.

2. 300
To achieve the shot-for-shot adaptation of Frank Miller’s Spartan comic, director Zack Snyder photocopied the graphic novel and built the set and each shot around it. The iconic cliff-top fight involved filming a few actors falling, and then replicating them in post-production for an army of tumbling warriors.

3. Ghostbusters
“He's a sailor, he's in New York; we get this guy laid, we won't have any trouble!” That was Bill Murray’s suggestion to deal with the 100 ft. marshmallow man terrorizing New York. Bodysuit actor and character creator Bill Bryan probably would have preferred that suggestion to being cooked alive by the Ghostbusters. The costume was made of two layers: an outer flammable layer and an inner fireproof suit.

4. Forrest Gump
‘Forrest Gump’ took a lot of critical flak for reinterpreting American history and CGI-ing Tom Hank’s naïve Gump into iconic newsreel footage. One thing that did quietly amaze though was how animators managed to amputate able-bodied actor Gary Sinise’s legs. The answer? Very clever socks.

5. Lord of the Rings
To tackle the challenge of the Hobbit’s tiny size, director Peter Jackson used an array of simple, but very crafty camera tricks. Although size doubles were frequently used, for scenes that required the actors themselves (such as Frodo’s memorable cart ride with Gandalf), Jackson’s team designed clever props to achieve what’s called “forced perspective” - in this case an l-shaped cart.

6. Avatar
James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, the highest grossing film of all time, was filmed entirely with state-of-the-art motion-capture technology that had been over a decade in the making. Still, the raw footage is surprisingly lacking in the epic. Actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana spent 31 days wearing skullcaps and blue dots in an aircraft hanger to film their original scenes.

7. The Godfather
To achieve the realistic (and gruesome) effect of Sonny Corleone getting riddled with bullets, actor James Caan had fishing-wire attached to pieces of fake-flesh on his face. When the triggers were pulled, the crew tugged on the wire, making the bullets seemingly explode through Caan. Ouch.

8. Independence Day
There’s a reason ‘Independence Day’ bagged the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Although the movie required over 3,000 SFX shots (a then-record), much of the movie’s dazzle was actually achieved through practical techniques – involving twice as many miniatures as had ever been used. The main alien craft itself was 65-foot wide.

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