Thursday, May 27, 2010

WHEN THE MOVIES USED SCALE MODELS INSTEAD OF COMPUTERS



The US movie effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is 35 years old this month. Formed in May 1975 by George Lucas, ILM has made groundbreaking special effects (SFX) for many big-name movies, but the biggest of the lot just has to be the original Star Wars trilogy, starting with 1977’s Episode IV: A New Hope.

The biggest difference between then and now is that in those early days, moviemakers made physical models for almost all SFX scenes - computer generated imagery (CGI) was in its infancy, and the amazing movie trickery of today (Avatar anyone?) lay decades in the future.

Even so, Star Wars broke new ground in adventure science fiction, for the spacecraft attack sequences looked utterly convincing, and ILM created leading-edge technology to make them so. For example, to film the attack on the Death Star, cameras flew along a big model of the trench section, and miniature explosions blazed away along its length. It was amazing stuff that manages to look good even today - look, no strings!

Star Wars moves on
The video we show above, courtesy Wired magazine, shows a short sequence of ILM at work (enjoy!) but the Star Wars franchise has not stopped still over the years. Apart from the recent ‘prequel’ trilogy, there are cartoons, new aliens, robots, spacecraft and much more besides. For sci-fi fans (hands up here at SMN) Star Wars models and collectibles continue to be a huge draw - a small selection is on view here.




2 comments:

  1. Hi David - have you read this? http://www.touchingfromadistance.co.uk/2010/05/the-physicality-of-silent-running/

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  2. A really interesting article about Silent Running, one of my faves from that period. Of course, 'real' SFX or CGI, the important thing that makes a decent movie is a strong plot and convincing actors. Which made the Star Wars prequels something of a disappointment for me - "effects good, acting wood".

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