Technological advancements have led film audiences to expect a lot out of big-screen cinema. As a result, an impressive range of special effects has arisen since the days of classic movies like Citizen Kane.
Sometimes, graphics have changed noticeably even between installments of the same film franchise: just look at Transformers 2007 and then take a look at 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction – which was the fourth film – in which the computer-generated imagery (CGI) really took off.
Here, we will take a look at some filmmaking effects that a movie maker who lacks the budget of a Hollywood studio can still put to good use in a movie.
- Toy models: Use toy models instead of computer graphics when possible. In the Wolf of Wall Street, the director opted for a toy helicopter to shoot a dazzling overhead view of the actors on a boat.
- Computer-Generated Imagery: These days, with such powerful computers around for relatively inexpensive prices, you can do limited – but effective – CGI for small parts of a film. It undoubtedly lets you create scenes that would otherwise be virtually impossible to realize.
- Matte paintings: One of the particularly-effective, low-budget alternatives to green screens and thousands of hours on a complex and powerful workstation; the static scenery offered by a well-painted background has withstood the test of time in productions.
- Miniature sets: To see what one of these looks like, check out Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind – much of that movie was shot using tiny sets. Hardly outdated; small sets are still used in great quantity today to render some truly impressive scenes using the movie technique of forced perspective.
- Combined Effects – CGI and model: 1993’s Jurassic Park had some fantastic imagery, but not many people know that the T-Rex was shot using both CGI and models – it’s nearly impossible to tell which one is which in scene after scene.
- Slow-motion tracking: One look at the Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix and the film’s fight scenes involving Neo and legions of agents shows you how effective slow-motion tracking can be for scenes of significance.
- Green Screens: Now you’re getting more into the high-tech level. Green screens are staples in many of today’s movies. It does require a specialized video camera and some computer work, though.
- Blue Screen: This film making technique isn’t used quite as much as the Green Screen; but if you saw 1994’s Forrest Gump, you probably remember Lieutenant Dan. Actor Gary Sinise had to wear Blue Screen fabric around his legs so that camera work could make those legs disappear and make him look like a double-amputee.
- Wires and Trolleys: You can use these mechanical contraptions to suspend actors for particular scenes, and then digitally erase them from the screen later. Christopher Nolan’s Inception used these quite a bit.
- Merging Scenes: Lastly, why use expensive CGI for a difficult scene? In 2000s The Perfect Storm, Wolfgang Petersen super-imposed images of a ship onto video of a real life mega-storm – to great effect.
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