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Stephen Green


May 23, 2014 - 9:00 am


Up until, and I guess including Jurassic Park, Hollywood could drop our jaws with only the special effects. Something really new might come along every once in a great while like the wire work from The Matrix, but once the computers took over we became jaded pretty quickly. We used to marvel at practical special effects, because some smart and talented people had to figure out a means to make something jaw-dropping happen, really happen, in front of a camera. Now the computer artists just draw it, if you’ll allow me to oversimplify the amazing work that they can do. But we’ll never again wonder, “How did they do that?”

Which means that special effects once again have to go back to doing the simple work of servicing a good story.

Remember good stories, Hollywood? A little less spectacle, please, and a little more storytelling.

(H/T, Wired.)


cross-posted form Vodkapundit

Stephen Green began blogging at in early 2002, and has served as PJMedia's Denver editor since 2008. He's one of the hosts on PJTV, and one-third of PJTV's Trifecta team with Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. Steve lives with his wife and sons in the hills and woods of Monument, Colorado, where he enjoys the occasional lovely adult beverage.

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Hmmmmm...I don't know...any survey of movie special effects that doesn't include John Carpenter's "The Thing" is somewhat suspect to me. "The Thing's" special effects surpassed those of *all* other pre-CGI films, and in many ways are scarier, and more realistic, imaginative and satisfying than the computer-generated special effects that came after it.

Some of the first-person descriptions capture the brilliance of it:

"The Thing employed pretty much every conceivable and known special effect at the time. A combination of many effects was used. Rob [Bottin, the lead special make-up FX guy for the film] said, 'If you named it we used it!' Some techniques that the FX crew utilized: hand puppets, marionettes, reverse filming, radio controls, wires, hydraulics, and pull cables. An extensive ingredient list was concocted to create the gore: heated bubble gum, strawberry jam, mayonnaise, cream corn, gelatin, and food thickener. Some synthetic materials used were metal, urethane, fiberglass, foam latex, rubber and KY Jelly. The 'Blair Monster' in the film's finale required 300 pounds of foam rubber alone!

"For scenes involving autopsies of the Thing and its victims, Bottin originally planned to use real animal organs purchased from a slaughterhouse. However, this was scrapped after a box of raw meat was absentmindedly forgotten at the back of a soundstage at Universal. It was discovered by one of the studio guys a week later who complained that the entire stage 'smelled like sh*t.'

"The special effects were a major factor in the script's being re-written. As production went on and the FX crew came up with new and outrageous ideas, like the Norris sequence with the chest and spiderhead, the story was re-worked to include these incredible scenes. Almost nothing turned out as originally planned but in the end both Carpenter and Bottin were pleased with the result. Much had to be scrapped for various reasons including an extended Blair Monster stop-motion sequence in which a bizarre Dog-Thing bursts from the Blair Monster to pursue MacReady. Stop-motion animator Ernie Farino spent nearly 2 months constructing the puppet armature for this scene and unfortunately it did not end up being included in the final film. It can be seen on the DVD's Bonus Materials.

"The live-action, full-size Blair Monster had 63 technicians operating it. They were pulling cables, manipulating hand puppets, and tugging monofilament line. Says Bottin: 'The guys were just outside of the frame. John had to scrap a couple of shots as fingers and elbows would show up in the frame.' Bottin himself became the Blair Monster, climbing inside to operate the dog that bursts out of the stomach. Despite being wrapped from head to toe in trash bags Rob came out so covered in slime and goo he could've been the Thing!"

40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps it the EE geek in me, but I'm still impressed by what they can do to make it appear more and more lifelike. The Matrix fight between Neo and Agent Smith should have never made print. It looked like it was lifted from a The Matrix video game. Indeed as time goes on I find video game rendering and the video game console processing just as cool as those effects.

On another level I really appreciate it, because I know the coolest scientific simulations tools probably wouldn't exist without the video game commercialism breaking ground on new and more detailed rendering and innovative processing that can then be reapplied in more boring, but less lucrative, ways.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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