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Special Effects

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Giles Penso‘s documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is scheduled to hit this June. If anyone is asking themselves who Harryhausen is right now, then you probably haven’t sat in front of your television as a child for an entire Saturday afternoon while Jason And his Argonauts fought skeletons, Sinbad and his crew fought a mutli-armed multi-sword welding Kali, or the winged Pegasus from Clash of the Titans. Harryhausen is the man who influenced all the great directors you know today including Peter Jackson, Terry Gilliam, John Landis, Guillermo del Toro, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg and many others. (more…)

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Deadpool recently passed the $700 million mark at the box office, cementing its place as one of the most successful super hero movies of all time. Along with Ryan Reynolds’ fantastic performance and humor, the movie’s special effects played a crucial role in bringing our favorite Merc with a Mouth to the big screen. What’s truly incredible is the amount of special effects that were produced on that $58 million dollar budget. Check out this visual effects breakdown for that big bridge fight scene from the movie. (more…)

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ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) has just released a Special Effects Sizzle Reel for Marvel‘s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a fantastic look at the meshing of technology and actors, of how the two are combined to create the incredible scenes of CA:TWS. While no one should hold their breath for a Marvel movie to end up on the Oscar’s Best Picture Nomination list, we should see some nods to the special effects works from both Anthony & Joe Russo‘s CA:TWS and James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy. (more…)

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Motion capture performance works by using reflective markers attached to the skin that help identify and replicate body movement and facial expressions so that animators can later create a complete digital character. Where filmmakers once relied on prosthetics and heavy layers of makeup, now it’s all about utilizing computers to create lifelike realism. With each innovative film (The Lord of the RingsKing KongRise of the Planet of the Apes), the technology is perfected just a tiny bit more, to the point that it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the flesh and blood actors and the animated characters they interact with. And at the center of nearly every great motion capture performance thus far is one man: Andy Serkis.

Now Serkis is bringing his one-of-a-kind skills back to the Apes franchise for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Today, a new featurette gives us a glimpse of the master and his fellow mo-cap performers at work, and it’s fascinating to see a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the artists’ process.

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The awards season is a great time to see some of the behind the scenes work that goes into the movies we love. ILM and other visual effects companies often release visual effects reels to the awards voting community to show exactly how much their work impacted the overall movie. We’ve got three visual effects reels for Pacific Rim and Star Trek into Darkness from ILM for your viewing entertainment. (more…)

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When you think of some of the iconic muppets, monsters and other worldly creatures that have graced the big and small screen, chances are they were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop – the legendary makers of movie magic. Founded in 1979 by the late Jim Henson, carried on by his son Brian Henson, the shop has earned its esteemed reputation with its creations appearing in such classics as Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dinosaurs (the TV show) and, of course, The Muppets. So what’s up with the venerable fabricators of fiction nowadays? The only sensible thing, of course. They’re getting their own reality based TV show…

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Hollywood special effects master Raymond Harryhausen passed away today at the age of 92. The man was a trailblazer, leading the way back in the early days of film, fueling the imagination of generations of film makers and special effects wizards.

Harryhausen’s stop motion effects were magical, the fight scenes incredibly detailed and thrilling. The time consuming task of shooting frame by frame scenes with detailed models was his trademark. He brought to life monsters and mythical creatures on the big screen in a way no one had ever accomplished before.

His family posted an announcement on the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation Facebook page earlier today along with some of Hollywood’s biggest directors and creative geniuses and their remembrances of Raymond:

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen
Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920
Died: London 7th May 2013.

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), MYSTERIUOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THER VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) which took him three months to film.

Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection.

Tributes have been heaped upon Harryhausen for his work by his peers in recent years.

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS”
George Lucas

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least”
Peter Jackson

“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation”
Nick Park

“His legacy of course is in good hands
Because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”
Randy Cook

“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen”
Phil Tippett

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
Terry Gilliam

“His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.”
Peter Jackson

“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
Steven Spielberg

“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant.
If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
James Cameron

We’ve put some videos of his work and an interview he did.

Via: The Ray and Dianne Harryhausen Foundation

DENNIS MUREN'S 'WALK OF FAME' IN LOS ANGELES.

The casual movie goer won’t recognize Dennis Muren‘s name, but would instantly recognize his special effects work in movies like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and many other George Lucas and Steven Speilberg movies. He’s been a tremendously creative force in ILM‘s (Industrial Light & Magic) special effects for many years. If this guy has an opinion on the state of Special Effects in Hollywood today, then those with any sense would consider his opinion seriously.

What’s he got to say?

“In some ways, I think special effects aren’t special anymore.”

“This toolkit has been around for 20, 25 years. Unless we come up with something really new, it’s up to the artists to make best use of the tools they’ve got. If you’re going to make a motion picture, don’t just throw computer graphics in to make everything bigger or more. Don’t have an army of 20,000 centaurs or whatever it is, if the story is better with seven centaurs. They’ve lost sight, making things bigger and bigger. Less personal.”

“A lot of directors like combining them [a variety of different FX techniques]. I would say not a lot of younger directors have had experience with that. Probably is that they won’t be as comfortable with it and it’s easier, production wise, to say just shoot a plate and we’ll get it later. Get it and move on. The time it takes to make a robotic character or a Muppet perform right… there’s a lot of value to that. Seems to have been forgotten.”

What do you think about his comments? Have computer special effects become the crutch supporting poor directing and production values? Have the abundance of huge special effects diluted the magic of what we’re seeing?

Think back to those movie’s effects that really made an impact on you, perhaps that first time you saw Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs, or watching Yoda rummage through Luke’s supplies on Dagobah. Muren makes some important points, when does a special effect become special in the eyes of the audience.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

Via: Movies.com