Special Effects (F/X) -
Milestones in Film
|Film Title/Year and Description of Visual-Special Effects|
Ub Iwerks was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Special Effects, but lost to Cleopatra (1963). Real birds and animatronic birds were used throughout the film.
One of the film's most famous scenes was the one of dozens of birds slowly gathering on playground equipment - a complex special-effects shot that optically combined over two dozen separate elements.
Shortly later during the scene of the bird-attack at the school, special effects combined the shot of the schoolhouse in the background with kids running on a treadmill in the foreground.
Advanced rotoscoping and male/female traveling mattes were used in the 20-second scene of hundreds of birds flying over an aerial view of the town - a combination of real live-action footage with hand-drawn matte paintings.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
This Ray Harryhausen-created scene deserved special mention -- the spectacular stop-motion dueling-skeletons scene between Jason (Todd Armstrong) and sword-wielding attackers, in which life-like puppets-models were manipulated and shot one frame at a time.
The film was also noted for its other amazing creatures, including the gigantic moving (and creaking) bronze statue Talos, the 7-headed Hydra, and two half-human, half-bird Harpies.
Mary Poppins (1964)
This film was the first winner of the newly-named Academy Award for FX - Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects. (After 1963, the category was split into two: Best Special Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects.)
The musical fantasy blended live-action with animation, such as the sequence in which Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke frolicked with cartoon penguins, sheep and carousel ponies.
The special effects technique used in the scene to combine live-action with animated characters and backgrounds was called sodium-screen (or sodium vapor) compositing - a new dual film traveling matte system similar to the blue-screen process, but using different tools.
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
This science-fiction classic film - the winner of the year's Academy Award for Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects, told of an expedition by miniaturized human beings into the bloodstream of a human body, within a high-tech military submarine (full-sized in actuality) that was shrunk to microbial dimensions.
The interior of the scientist's body was created by using large, highly-detailed sets of various body parts (i.e., the brain, the heart). Through various techniques, the explorers were seen swimming through the body (the actors were suspended on wires).
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Miniature models of spacecraft, timer or manually-guided pre-motion control cameras, rear-projection (for the film's many video displays and computer monitors), full-sized props or models (such as the 30-ton rotating "ferris wheel" set of the spaceship), and other early techniques (such as a primitive type of "Go-Motion") were used.
In the film's opening "Dawn of Man" sequence of prehistoric apes learning to use tools on the African savannah, retroreflective matting (front projection) was used to display second-unit background scenic shots projected from the front onto a reflective surface combined with soundstage photography of actors in the foreground - a technique now replaced by computer-processed blue-screen techniques.
Near the film's end in the Star Gate sequence, astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) traveled through the stargate corridor in a dazzling sequence (using a slit-scan photographic technique) - a sound and light hallucinatory journey or whirling lights and colors in which he was hurled through and into another dimension - where he died and was reborn as a Star Child.
Other effects were achieved by applying different colored
filters to aerial landscape footage and a close-up of an eye, and filming
The Yellow Submarine (1968)
Film Milestones in Visual/Special Effects (F/X)
(chronological order by film title)
Introduction | 1880s-1890s | 1900-1905 | 1906-1920 | 1921-1929 | 1930-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-1959
1960-1969 | 1970-1974 | 1975-1979 | 1980-1982 | 1983-1985 | 1986-1988 | 1989-1991 | 1992-1994
1995-1996 | 1997-1998 | 1999-2000 | 2001-2002 | 2003-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008-2009 | 2010-Present