Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Real Special Effects

If you're like me, you've probably been fairly overwhelmed the past few months by the daunting piece of technology that is After Effects. Sure, it's capable of creating spaceships and monsters and making it look like you're in cool Martin Scorsese movies, but it also has the power to make you look like you have absolutely no idea what you're doing (like when your stupid birds flap their wings but don't actually fly anywhere). It can be frustrating, but also really rewarding.

However - as some posts have pointed out in the past - there are ways to work around the frustrations of After Effects: one of those ways being to perform real special effects instead of using a computer to generate them. I've written posts about how many films (some that you'd never expect) utilize CGI in their post-production process, but this post is about exactly the opposite. There are many films out there - looking at you, Christopher Nolan - that use far less CGI than has become the norm, and instead decide to stick to more "practical" (yes, I put that in quotations for a reason) special effects. Here's a list of a few movies that really surprised me.

1. Inception. I knew that the infamous 'rotating hallway' scene was done without the use of CGI, but I had no idea that two other key scenes in the film were made this way as well. There's one point where Leo Decaprio stands in a dream-world Japanese house, when all of a sudden, water comes crashing through the windows. Turns out, they had giant water cannons outside of the windows, and actually blasted Leo with 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water. Likewise, the cafe explosion was done with practical effects: the filmmakers put air cannons around the actors and blew up the set surrounding Leo and Ellen Page.

2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. There's a scene in the movie where Tom Cruise's character climbs the Burj Khalifa - the highest man-made structure in the world. Obviously fake, right? Well, knowing Tom Cruise, maybe this one's actually somewhat believable. Instead of creating a fake tower, the filmmakers let a man with a net worth of 250 million dollars literally run down the side of building hundreds of feet off the ground. That's dedication, no matter how insane.

3. Skyfall. I don't know what it is with dudes playing spies/special agents, but they have a penchant for doing their own stunts. In the newest James Bond movie, Daniel Craig was actually on top of a speeding train, attached with nothing but a super thin wire. They also - this one really got me - actually crashed a subway train through a wall. Craig was added into the scene via greenscreen later (for obvious reasons, I think.) In fact, the only major special effects used in the movie were the blowing up of MI6 and the scene where Bond fights off a Komodo Dragon.

Unfortunately, if you're like me and overwhelmed with After Effects, you can't just say "screw CGI, let's go crash a real train through a wall." That's something that Hollywood can do, not a broke college student who steals cutlery from the dining hall. Practical effects are amazing: I think they'll always trump computer generated effects when it comes to looking realistic, because...they are. However, you have to take the good with the bad, and, like Daniel Craig, understand that you while you may be able to derail a subway train, you don't necessarily want to be there when it happens. That's where After Effects comes in.

To see these examples and more, visit check out the original posts from here and here.

No comments :

Post a Comment