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Special Effects Unplugged: Movie Magic Before Computers

I've asked movie and music industry insiders to explain their respective businesses to me, and never end up any smarter than I start out.

How can Lyle Lovett's album sales amount to $0.00?

How can Return of the Jedi still be in the red?

Or take Ed Driscoll's post last week called "Hollywood's Special Effects Industry is in Crisis":

As Life of Pi won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, the venerable facility that created those effects – Rhythm & Hues – declared bankruptcy, and they’re hardly the first to close their doors due to financial problems. Debra Kaufman pulls from her 25 years of experience covering the industry to take a close look at how the creators of some of cinema’s indelible images are falling prey to dysfunctional business models.

As you've likely guessed, the bloated, ever-evolving technology required to bring those Jurassic Park raptors to virtual life is so costly, it burdens production companies with insurmountable debt.

We often read about how many weeks or months -- or even years -- it takes to create glossy special effects that last only seconds on screen.

Is that really a sound business model or a smart, efficient way to make anything?

I hear Buddhism is big in Hollywood, but surely they're not basing their creative process on the making of sand mandalas -- are they?

It wasn't always like this...