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OT: Favorite Special Effects

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I’m studying old school special effects and wanted to hear some of everybody’s favorite visual feats in the trilogy.  The thing I love most about many of the effects is that they’re amazingly simple and doable on even the tightest budget.

My personal favorite is the starfields of the old trilogy, just holes poked into construction paper if I remember right.  It’s amazing that an entire universe can be conveyed to the audience by poking a tack through something that can be bought at a crafts store for 85 cents.  Science fiction doesn’t have to be a blockbuster game, we just need lower budget filmmakers to use a little practical imagination.

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As soon as I read the post, this image popped into my head. It's not ground-breaking and there were plenty of others in the film that were more impressive. However, as I sat in the theater in 1977, it's the one that really moved me into feeling far far away and has always been my mental image of the film.

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PaulisDead2221 said:
I'm studying old school special effects and wanted to hear some of everybody's favorite visual feats in the trilogy.  The thing I love most about many of the effects is that they're amazingly simple and doable on even the tightest budget. 

My personal favorite is the starfields of the old trilogy, just holes poked into construction paper if I remember right.  It's amazing that an entire universe can be conveyed to the audience by poking a tack through something that can be bought at a crafts store for 85 cents.  Science fiction doesn't have to be a blockbuster game, we just need lower budget filmmakers to use a little practical imagination.


I think the starfields were created with pieces of black lucite (with pinholes poked in).

I really like the shot of the tie-fighter that gets 'electrocuted' and hurls towards the camera in ESB during the asteroid chase scene. I also love the 'pull away' shots of the Falcon in SW when it appears that it's moving very quickly away from the camera, when in fact it's the camera moving away from the model, and the various shots of the Falcon in the trilogy when the Falcon kind of banks/sways upward towards the camera and you can briefly see its underbelly.

The close-up shots of the Death Star (I) where you can see the little illuminated 'windows' are great, too.

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I think the ESB asteroid chase is exhilarating to this day, somehow more dynamic and "realistic" than the asteroid chase in AOTC. I heard they put some potatoes in with the asteroids ... 

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My favorite special effect is when they are going to hyperspace in SW and TESB. It looks great and it's like they get to safety from almost being captured.

And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as the Son of the Suns.

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It's less the effects than the skillful set up, but the first reveal of the Executor is my favorite shot in the entire trilogy.

 

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My favorite effects shot happens to be my favorite shot in all the movies, when the soldier in Empire zooms in his binoculars to the walker's foot and looks up and zooms out to reveal the rest of them.

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Anchorhead said:

As soon as I read the post, this image popped into my head. It's not ground-breaking and there were plenty of others in the film that were more impressive. However, as I sat in the theater in 1977, it's the one that really moved me into feeling far far away and has always been my mental image of the film.

Yeah I like this one too.  The set up must have been so simple.  Does anybody know how they did this?  A simple double exposure?  If I had to eyeball it I'd say they took the shutter and aperture way down and refilmed for the higher sun to expose onto the image.  Is this accurate?

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What you really should do is start an ILM thread on the old school ilm effects before the 90's starting to get rid of them.

A book i really highly recommend is the art of special effects , aka industrial light and magic.  Not the cg into the digital realm garbage but the one on real optical and practical special effects.

Yeah there was cg in the first star wars film, return of the jedi and star trek II but it was not all cgi all the time and was very limited.

Episode 1 contrary to popular belief did have models and sets built if on a hell of a smaller scale than return of the jedi at least they did a blending of both techs and used real film.  Also the production designs by doug chiang were faithful if different to ralph mcqaurries, and were real paintings not down on a computer.  Therefore though mediocre in spririt the phantom menace was the last "real star wars film"  Episode II were video games by comparison and complete abominations especially epeisode III which should have been a fans dream instead of nightmare of seeing their favorite franchise crapped on.

In star treks VI and VII and VIII they had Cgi enterprises as well as models.  In the new film there were none and it looked like a damn playstation 3 game that they spent 200 million on.

Just like t2 both old school and new school, avatar completely cgi and looks like an animated feature,lol.

My favorites are tons of things.  The Enterprise jumping to warp and in dry dock in star trek the motion picture by former ilmers and not ilm, in star trek the motion picture.  The mutura nebula scene in wrath of khan and the genesis effect.  The delorean scale model shots in the back to the future trilogy.

The opening scene of star wars with the star destroyer reveal, the x wings diving on the death star trench in star wars faked by the dystraflex motion control camera rig.

The lightsabers in the original trilogy, the sound effects which i also consider to be a special effect by ben burrt.

Burtt's sound design and worldizing were special as they were not what was traditional studio foley work and using pre recorded cataloged sounds, he went into the real world to record things.  They did not overuse synthesizers like previous sci fi pictures did.

To me the most beautiful scenes of empire strikes back are the real helicopter shots of finse blended with small sets of walker models with fake snow and matte paintings to create the ice world of hoth.

To me empire has the best cinematography of the 3, the best acting and best screenplay.  Everyone was on their top form in that film, when it came to return of the jedi for budget reasons and others things started to be phoned in a bit, even if the crew remained completely professional, Lucas heart seemed to no longer be in it and he wanted the thing over and done with.  Also he always went with the it is good enough philosophy.  He was angry at dykstra for spending the money on getting the realistic effects lucas wanted on star wars, he claimed you could throw models on a stick towards the camera.  When starting up a non union effects house was incredibly expensive to do from the ground on up.

He was angry to Kurtz for allowing the acting to come along more natrualy in empire by allowing kershner more takes and set ups, and trying to get the perfect shot.  I'm surprised he was not accused of being an David Lean or Stanley Kubrick, speningd tons on retakes was not lucas style.  Watch graffiti, thx, or star wars 77 to prove my point valid.

Star Wars would not have been possible without those crazy kids in the 70's who worked at ilm for almost nothing, who got little or no credit going forward as the dude who was responsible for everything  created star wars by himself, just ask him he will tell the same as he talks to the media.

He may have been the inspiration and started it all up with his own ideas and money, but he sometimes i think should recall the people a little more who really made the original trilogy shine and why the prequels sucked and were absolute dreck.

In my own little imagined perfect saga the prequels and special editions don't exist, there were backstories and sequels planned that were never filmed and exist only in the minds of fans. The Zahn trilogy was a nice bit of EU and the special editions and prequels only exist in an alternate universe continuity, like bizarro world in superman,lol.

Star Wars was budgeted at ten million and went over budget.  I believe Lucas had to pay penalties, which amounted to almost nothing seeing as the film was a tremendous hit. I think it went like a half million dollars over budget or something.  The studio originally imposed a budet ofd nine million i believe and originally wanted it for between 4-6 milliion, lol.

Compare star wars 10.5 million dollar budget to the phantom menace which was probably over a hundred million dollars there is no comparison and star wars is the better film, rofl.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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Lightsabers.

Lightsabers were bitchin!

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Mine would be the same as Sluggo's, but more specifically the lightsabers in Empire.  They're perfect.  (At least, they were before they got all fucked up in 2004.)

And the first time the Falcon goes into hyperspace.  Such an amazing moment the first time you see it ...

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ChainsawAsh said:

Mine would be the same as Sluggo's, but more specifically the lightsabers in Empire.  They're perfect.  (At least, they were before they got all fucked up in 2004.)

And the first time the Falcon goes into hyperspace.  Such an amazing moment the first time you see it ...

Oh yeah how is hyperspace done?  It looks like a rack zoom through the stars that is slowed down for a second to get that preliminary star trail.  Is this right?  Of course the spinning stars after the falcon leaves seems like a separate composition.

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Heh, all I know is that the "in hyperspace" effects is achieved with aluminum foil.

There is no lingerie in space…

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don’t exist… then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks… and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming… Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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My favourite special effect has to be the snowspeeder search  in ESB. Although it isn't much of a "special effect" because its just a cockpit shot against bluescreen and added to live footage of the mountain range, this one scene really made me feel like i was in the movie when watching it on the big screen in 1980. It gave the same feeling that was present in the film "roller-coaster". I almost felt like i was flying in the snowspeeder over the mountain range. It's a feeling i will never forget, but never got that feeling when watching it again on the big screen in later life though

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adywan said:

I almost felt like i was flying in the snowspeeder over the mountain range.I almost felt like i was flying in the snowspeeder over the mountain range.

 Yeah! I remember that too :)

When the special effect is not "Perfect" (as nowadays), it has a stronger power: "Suggestion". That makes your imagination work.

... "Credibility" is really no match: uninteresting... and incredible.

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Yeah, the lightsabers in Empire really are great.  Apparently they were still working out the kinks in the first movie and unfortunately they were farmed out to an outside company for Jedi because ILM was too snowed under with the sheer volume of other shots.

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I'd never heard that about Jedi before.  Honestly, I never noticed any difference between the lightsabers in the two sequels (other than Luke's being green).  Care to elaborate on this?  Obviously the first film's problem lay in the fact that they weren't sure whether they were going to be a later visual effect or an on-camera reflective effect, but by the sequels they had settled on rotoscoping (since the reflecting didn't work).

There is no lingerie in space…

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don’t exist… then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks… and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming… Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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According to an old Cinefex they ultimately had a former ILM guy (who had done started his own company after Empire) do them. Maybe they had already lost precious time when they were still making Luke's saber blue? It was such a painstaking frame-by-frame thing back then, just those shots in the trailer where it's blue represents a fair amount of work that had to be tossed out. Anyway they look too fat to me in Jedi, I dunno.

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Baronlando said:

According to an old Cinefex they ultimately had a former ILM guy (who had done started his own company after Empire) do them.

 Richard Edlund?  I think he had his own company by that time.  His guys went on to do the effects for Ghostbusters.

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Don't know if anything in it can be called a special effect (other than some poor matte people), but I'll always love the end scene for Star Wars.

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My favorite Special effect is when the Tantive IV gets pulled into the underbelly of the Star Destroyer in A New Hope. I love how the Imperial ship seems to sprawl out over the tiny rebel ship when in fact the Blockade Runner model was much larger than the star destroyer since it was originally supposed to be the Falcon.

Ooooh. And also when Luke loses his hand in TESB. This is still the only limb loss in all six movies that is convincing. (and yes I'm talking primarily about Anakin's little "here let me hold my whole arm out and hope it doesn't get hacked off by this old guy" AOTC mistake.)

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It was Peter Kuran, (who started out at ILM) who did the Lightsaber FX in the sequels. He formed his own company after Empire.

http://www.vce.com/

 

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Where were you in '77?

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My faves is during the Battle of Endor in Jedi, when the Falcon, Wedge's X-wing and an A-wing dive into the Death Star tunnel.  The perspective on the shot still makes my stomach lurch -- it feels so real to me.  That's gold!

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