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Film directors and Special Effects.

Special Effects DI

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#1 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 09:03 PM

Hi everyone. I am about to start the 2 years of film studies at LACC and my goal is to become a film ditrector. My likings, which used to be quite broad, have narrowed down to movies where especial effects are of the essence ( Life of Pi, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.) My question is how much of SFXs a director must know in order to make the movie? Is he supposed to have a great deal of knowledge of this field before embarking in such kind of projects? Thanks. 


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 10:07 PM

It's good to have a rough idea of what is possible, as a director, however, normally you'll figure out your FXs early on working with FX supervisors who will have a few tricks up their sleeves. A lot of this comes from trying things out. I highly highly recommend playing around with some of the old-school in camera FXs. In today's DSLR world you can have a lot of fun pretty quickly and easily and immediately. Well different from the days where you'd have to wait for the film to develop.  There were (are even?) many FXs DoPs back in the days of miniatures and the like. I still find great joy in having a rough idea of how it was done and in trying my best to do a practical effect when possible, appropriate (cloud tanks, for example are something I much enjoy, as well as playing with macro photography).

You certainly need to know much more as a DoP than a Director as you'll be the one tasked with guaranteeing what you shoot will be what is needed to make the FX work.

 

Also it's important to try not to double and triple post on the forum.


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#3 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 10:17 PM

But, dont you think that the FX that you see in Life or Pi or Pirates of the Caribbean are way better than the ones you can do with a dslr? I mean, don’t you need an specialist to do that?


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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 10:24 PM

Yes. But that is providence of money and time and professionalism. I'm just saying you can practice things like forced perspective, certain optical effects, peppers ghosts, ect, the in camera stuff on a DSLR. You also could get the same level of FXs on those films on any camera, I'd argue given enough time money and talent, of course, even if you have the money and the talent, you rarely have the time.


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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 02:40 AM

I suspect you may have to narrow it down to if you like those films because of the special effects or because of the story. To a directors the FX are just part of how they tell the story, they've loads of other considerations.

 

There are many effects that can be done in camera, they can be better than CGI, it's a matter of selecting the best process for the job in hand with the budget available.


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#6 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 02:42 AM

The robots in Transformers for example, can they be done in camera?


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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 03:11 AM

Stop motion would be the traditional method, Ray Harryhausen did it for many years. It's also used in combination with other effects in the Star Wars films.  

 

http://www.rayharryh...n.com/index.php


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#8 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 03:24 AM

So they do not use CGI but stop motion?


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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 04:05 AM

The Star Wars films used many methods, stop motion was used in a few scenes, motion control was used in many scenes. CGI was used in the EP 1, 2 & 3, plus the reworking of some scenes in the earlier films for re-release,.


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 29 April 2013 - 04:06 AM.

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#10 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 04:13 AM

So there are several methods. Interesting.


Edited by Ronald Carrion, 29 April 2013 - 04:14 AM.

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#11 Chris Millar

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 06:04 AM

ooh boy...

 

ok, constructive hat on:

 

Cinefex magazine - a subscription would serve you well.


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 10:20 AM

Any filmmaker needs a grounding in special effects techniques, old and new... It doesn't mean you actually have to be good enough at them to do it yourself, but you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of one approach over another, and the time and cost factors.

You could have a scene set at the Superbowl but not be able to fill the stands with 20,000 extras obviously... But knowing the costs of each effect shot may tell you that you should spend the money and effort of getting, lets say, 300 extras if possible so that some angles and tighter shots don't need visual effects work done to them, and in your wide shots, the effects person can clone the 300 real extras to fill out the rest of the seats, particularly if you lock off the camera and take the time to move the 300 extras around to each section so that you can just tile the shots together in post.

Otherwise a beginner may think, well, if I have to digitally create 20,000 people anyway, why get any real extras? It's expensive and a pain to deal with, an empty stadium is easier, I don't have to feed 300 people that day. But wait, if I am going to digitally paint all of those people in anyway, why do I need to be in a stadium? I can paint that in as well. Wait, why do I need a football team, a field, etc.? They are all just in the background anyway, I just need my actor to stand against a green screen. Then later, after you've spent tens of thousands of dollars for a few shots that look so-so in believability, you're going to wish you had done more of it in camera for real.

On the other hand, there may be times when it makes more sense to just stick the actor in front of a green screen and create the background from scratch with CGI.
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#13 George Ebersole

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 08:47 AM

Dave; that's great advice.  After I quit doing SFX (mid 90s) and started to see more CGI come into TV and films, one of my big critiques was that a lot of the CGI was escalating in cost, so much to the point that for a while the CGI cost more than it would to actually shoot a scene live.

 

A pet peeve that my friend had (a doctor in computer "science", he and I grew up on the old first gen Apples, and later on PCs) was that the CGI artists that took classes from him were calling themselves "computer programmers", when they were just artists with some savvy on rendering programs.  Again, it inflated the cost of their skill which was passed onto the film's budget.

 

Years back I remember a real louzy film called "Left Behind".  It was based on those religious nut case books about "the rapture".  In the opening sequence you see an invading army with tanks and jets that looked so phony that I wondered which combat sim they used to get those shots.  Then the thought occurred to me; I wonder how much it would have cost to have simply flow to Russia and flipped the bill for a shot of a bunch of T-80 tanks and Mig-29s passing over the camera.  But that's just me.

 

There are hundreds of similar examples.  From the Fast and Furious series with CGI cars to the new Superman film "Man of Steel"

 

Just my two bits.


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