Friday, September 19, 2014

Practical Effects: The Real Magic Tricks of Filmmaking

Special effects in filmmaking could be summed up into two different styles: visual effects, and practical effects. Visual effects usually involve editing the footage in post-production, while practical effects are done live in front of the camera. Visual effects can have a really cool effect when used effectively, like in this summer's blockbuster film, "Maleficent". Of course everything you see is fake and created on a computer, but the movement of the camera makes the scene very compelling.

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So. Visual effects can be pretty cool. But I'm here to talk about why practical effects are way cooler.

Why are they way cooler?

Well, many reasons. For one the shot is going to have a timeless effect and will look real 100 years from now because, well, it is real. Visual effects however are very time sensitive. These magical, awe-inspiring scenes we see now will look laughable in a few years. But that's how technology works.

Check out these two scenes below...

The first one is from Terminator 3, where they flipped a massive construction vehicle using computer-generated visual effects. The second one is from the Dark Knight, where they do almost the same stunt except they actually flip the truck.





Now to be fair some might jump up and say the Terminator version is better because the truck is seen crunched in to the ground, tires flying through the air, and of course a nice big explosion to finish.

But sorry, you're wrong.

Consider this analogy....

The Dark Knight's effect is like a gourmet selection from that restaurant down the street...


...and The Terminator's visual effect is like a #2 from Panda Express with extra meat.



But consider this analogy for a second. Even though Panda Express is of less quality, overall it's a better deal. You're getting a lot more food for a lot less money. There's plenty like about it... but little to appreciate. You will not eat Panda Express in small bites and appreciate the amount of work it took to create such a masterpiece. It's just something that will make you happy in that moment. And minus the painful poo afterwords, that's exactly what the Terminator 3 effect is. It's just a cheap audience pleaser. 

I hope a few of these behind-the-scenes videos below will help convince you:

First off, The Dark Knight flip:


 Come on... that's just FRIGGIN COOL.

For any of you that have seen Inception, you may remember the scene when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in a fist fight whilst flying all across a room because of changing gravity. How do you create the effect of a room rapidly changing gravity? How about RAPIDLY CHANGING THE GRAVITY?




This next video is from "Edge of Tomorrow", a film I expected to be a horrible flop. Tom Cruise stuck reliving to same war scene day after day? Sounded to me like an excuse for big explosions and no story at all. But the reviews came out and they were actually really positive. I couldn't believe it. I had to see what all the huff was about, and I was indeed pleasantly surprised by the engaging story. The story does of course include several explosions and battle scenes, but I remember thinking that they were acted out very well. That is, the actors seemed to be reacting to their environment quite realistically. After watching this video, I realized why. This video features several small clips, but the most impressive clip is at 2:58. It's truly incredible and I don't think many actors could pull it off besides Tom Cruise. 



Of course there are many other notable films that are famous for their use of practical effects, but I hope this gives you an introduction to the fine art and precise skill of these types of effects. They are dangerous, expensive, and difficult, but that's why they deserve so much appreciation.

Crave that gourmet shit.



1 comment:

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