Special Effects you won’t believe were done for real

Here at The Filmsmith we have a great love for all the hours that go into practical special effects, those pieces of wizardry that aren’t created by computer animators.  These guys have to battle the restrictions of the real world (time, space, gravity) in order to do their job well, because when they do, you feel the term movie magic.  So here are some of the highlights from Cracked’s, “8 Special Effects You Won’t Believe Aren’t CGI.”

In John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, Carpenter wanted a computer image of New York City skyscrapers as Snake Plissken’s glider cruises the city skies.  Unfortunately, Carpenter didn’t have the budget for these high-tech green wireframe images.  Instead, he used some green tape and a black light on a model of the city and, PRESTO!, you’ve got a computer layout of the city:

Which goes to illustrate how much creativity, not budget, go into special effects.

Even as a connoisseur of practical special effects, while watching Lord of the Rings I was never quite sure how they managed to have Elijah Wood Frodo sit next to Ian McKellan Gandalf and manage to make Frodo look so small.


It’s called forced perspective, which is the same thing that allows those cool sidewalk paintings to look like they’re 3D.  You might normally see it under conditions that call attention to the effect (think of those Leaning Tower of Pisa photos that everyone takes), but director Peter Jackson does it so casually you don’t expect it to be such a simple camera trick.

There are some other items you may not have known (The Dark Knight‘s truck flip was real) that you can read from the whole article, here.

[Images via]

-Remington Smith

One response to “Special Effects you won’t believe were done for real

  1. Dale James Smith

    I really enjoyed this review!…I read the entire Cracked article, and was amazed at some of the “real world” techniques and processes!

    Besides “The Dark Knight” Huge Chase Scene, especially when “The Tumbler” gives a “Physics-Like Uppercut” to the Garbage Truck….

    Forced Perspective: While I was in South America, we took photo shots akin to this where “giant person in foreground” is ‘holding’ “tiny person” (far away) on the palm of his hand!

    I really enjoyed the “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” scenes–“Leslie Hamilton,” sister to Linda Hamilton, helps save the day & the process, during Brain Surgery on the Original Terminator, as well as near the ending scene when Neo-Terminator performs a “Doppleganger” effect: “….Hey, there are TWO Sarah Connors!?”….(Are Linda & Leslie sisters, or, are they twins?)

    I was unaware of F.F. Coppola’s “Actual Effects” in his version of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula:” …Dracula’s Eyes in Skies: A projection OF a projection ON a projection!…Giant-Looking Book: WAS a Giant Book!

    “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:” …Michel Gondry had Winslet & Carrey performing wind sprints from point A to point B (a.k.a.:their “marks”, while simultaneously making costume changes (trap door in bathroom enabled Winslet to get to kitchen before camera, then they used a double for her character a bit later!)

    Apollo 13: Actual, Real, Weightlessness!… Who would have thought this!?…They made approximately 600 Parabolic Arcs after making “Vomit Comet” (KC-135, owned by NASA,)… THE SOUND STAGE.

    A great review! Very nicely done!


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