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SFX & INTERIORS

MECHANICAL SPECIAL FX

MECHANICAL SFX

An Inspiring History

THIS ONE IS FOR THE HEADSTRONG

Early Development

In 1857, Oscar Rejlander created the world’s first “special effects” image by combining different sections of 32 negatives into a single image, making a montaged combination print. In 1895, Alfred Clark created what is commonly accepted as the first-ever motion picture special effect. While filming a reenactment of the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, Clark instructed an actor to step up to the block in Mary’s costume. As the executioner brought the axe above his head, Clark stopped the camera, had all of the actors freeze, and had the person playing Mary step off the set. He placed a Mary dummy in the actor’s place, restarted filming, and allowed the executioner to bring the axe down, severing the dummy’s head. Techniques like these would dominate the production of special effects for a century.[1]It wasn’t only the first use of trickery in cinema, it was also the first type of photographic trickery that was only possible in a motion picture, and referred to as the “stop trick”. Georges Méliès, an early motion picture pioneer, accidentally discovered the same “stop trick.” 

According to Méliès, his camera jammed while filming a street scene in Paris. When he screened the film, he found that the “stop trick” had caused a truck to turn into a hearse, pedestrians to change direction, and men to turn into women. Méliès, the stage manager at the Theatre Robert-Houdin, was inspired to develop a series of more than 500 short films, between 1914, in the process developing or inventing such techniques as multiple exposurestime-lapse photographydissolves, and hand painted color. Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality with the cinematograph, the prolific Méliès is sometimes referred to as the “Cinemagician.” His most famous film, Le Voyage dans la lune (1902), a whimsical parody of Jules Verne‘s From the Earth to the Moon, featured a combination of live action and animation, and also incorporated extensive miniature and matte painting work.

PLANNING AND USE

Although most visual effects work is completed during post-production, it must be carefully planned and choreographed in pre-production and production. A visual effects supervisor is usually involved with the production from an early stage to work closely with the Director and all related personnel to achieve the desired effects.

Practical effects also require significant pre-planning and co-ordination with performers and production teams. The live nature of the effects can result in situations where resetting due to an error, mistake, or safety concern incurs significant expense, or is impossible due to the destructive nature of the effect.

LIVE SPECIAL EFFECTS

Live special effects are effects that are used in front of a live audience, such as in theatre, sporting events, concerts and corporate shows. Types of effects that are commonly used include: flying effects, laser lightingtheatrical smoke and fogCO2 effects, and pyrotechnics. Other atmospheric effects can include flame, confetti, bubbles, and snow.[7]

mechanical effects

Mechanical effects encompass the use of mechanical engineering to a greater degree. Cars being flipped and hauled over buildings are usually an effect built on specialized rigs and gimbals such as in movies like Unknown. These features were made possible by the use of these rigs and gimbals. Usually a team of engineers or freelance film companies provide these services to movie producers. As the action event is being recorded against a green screen, camera workers, stunt artists or doubles, directors and engineers who conceptualize and engineer these monumental mechanics, all collaborate at the same time to acquire the perfect angle and shot that provides the entertainment users enjoy. It is then edited and reviewed before final release to the public.

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