Archive for the 'Special Effects/Visual Effects' Category

Leigh Took Painting a Matte for Hawk the Slayer (1980)

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I found these at a wonderful site called Matte Shot, a tribute to golden age special effects artists. The third image shows the matte as it appears in the film, and you can see a lot more at the link, including a miniature of the castle. Took got his start at Britain’s Pinewood Studios, and his first mattes appear in Warlords of Atlantis (1978), the oft-forgotten (and still unreleased on DVD in the U.S.) fourth fantasy-adventure directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure.

Took went on to work on classics like Clash of the Titans (1981), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), and Batman (1989). More recently, he has worked as Miniature Effects Supervisor on The Wolfman (2010) and The Monuments Men (2014). He was also Visual Effects Supervisor on my favorite horror film of the last 15 years, Neil Marshall’s The Descent (2005).

Cinefantastique (Vol. 6, No. 1, 1977): Behind the Scenes Visual Effects from Land of the Lost

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Read the article at Pop Apostle, where I got the images. The visual effects for Land of the Lost were supervised by Gene Warren, who won an academy award for his special effects on George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960). Land of the Lost story editor David Gerrold, a Hugo and Nebula award-winner who wrote Star Trek‘s “The Trouble with Tribbles,” was not happy with the network’s meddling with the scripts, and resigned after the first season.

While Gerrold speaks highly of many who were involved with Land of the Lost, his disappointment with the show was multileveled. From his own point of view, the uncontrolled rewriting which took place after “approved” scripts had left his desk was intolerable. NBC’s Program Practices had a shot at them (his favorite story there involves a rifle which was changed to a cannon with the reasoning that children are less likely to imitate action performed with the latter). Also, the show’s directors were granted total rewrite power, as is often the case in film and television production.

In addition, the pressures of low budget production took a toll. The live action production schedule of two dates per episode allowed for little more than a reading of the lines. The end product, in Gerrold’s words, was “uncomfortable to watch– embarrassing– and we deserved the bad reviews we got everywhere…

Unfortunately, the dinosaurs began to die out with the science fiction in Land of the Lost. This is unfortunate because, in the beginning, the animation sequences often outclassed the live action (sound familiar?). Considering the time required for animation, and for tricky composite work, the very idea of doing both on a weekly series is ambitious to say the least. Nevertheless, that is what the Kroffts had in mind, and they engaged Gene Warren and Wah Chang, well known veterans of dimensional animation in feature films and commercials, for the job…

More Land of the Lost here.

Fantastic Films #17 (July, 1980): Interview with Richard Edlund

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There were a number of interviews with the special effects crew of The Empire Strikes Back in Fantastic Films #17. Here’s the first. It gets pretty technical, because that’s Edlund’s field, but anyone can appreciate what he says about the now famous asteroid chase sequence:

There’s a star background, a far background, and an asteroid background, plus individual asteroid foreground elements. Individual rocks get photographed separately as do belt layers. So all that adds up to about 20 stage elements. A shot like that requires about 100 separate pieces of film…

Notice that Edlund says “he became a hippie” during his early career. Some of the album covers he photographed and designed can be seen at Discogs. A couple of the psychedelic 7 UP commercials he worked on for visual effects pioneer Robert Abel are here and here. A shot of Edlund working on Star Wars is here.

Edlund went on to do visual effects for films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, Ghostbusters, Fright Night, Big Trouble in Little China, Die Hard, and, of course, Return of the Jedi.

Manhattan Miniature from Escape from New York (1981)




In the first two photos, Bob (dark hair and beard) and Dennis Skotak, two legends in the visual effects field, work on the model. In the third, Bob inspects the finished product. To achieve the computer navigation sequence as Plisken is flying his glider into the city, reflective paint was applied to the edges of the black buildings, which were then shot under black light. While reportedly James Cameron’s idea, it was almost certainly John C. Wash. Cameron was a director of photography on the film (as was Dennis Skotak), and he did some great matte work as well.

(Images via Matte Shot and Fuck Yeah Behind the Scenes)

James Cameron Painting a Matte for Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

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Above: Cameron paints the hero’s village—a beautiful, surreal design—from BBTS.

Below: Cameron painting the skyline for Escape from New York.


And here’s a short magazine blurb on Galaxy of Terror. The man squatting next to the pyramid is Robert Skotak. The two also worked together on Battle Beyond the Stars and Escape from New York, and Cameron later hired Skotak as visual effects supervisor for Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Titanic.

Cameron remembers his friends, I’ll give him that, and Aliens is the greatest sci-fi action movie ever made.

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(Images via, Ain’t it Cool News, and Atomic Donkey)




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