January 11, 2015

Watch How the Masters Used to Create VFX for Movies in These ILM Videos

Star Wars Matte Painting
Back before VFX became a computer-only affair (for the most part), creating post effects required dealing with lots of physical elements.

You might already be very familiar with some of these tools and processes (some of them are still in use today), but it's fascinating what we take for granted these days, especially since some effects took an unbelievable amount of trial and error and experimenting:

Optical Printing

Matte Painting

You can see more examples of Star Wars matte painting here.

Rotoscoping

Space Battle

Miniatures & Bigatures

There are a ton more videos out there showing off new and old techniques, and even though we still deal with miniatures from time to time, most of these effects are now done with computers. Since even film is scanned into a computer (and sent back out digitally), the optical printing and rotoscoping are all done on computers, and matte painting, even if it was done manually these days (which is unusual), it would likely be scanned in and combined digitally with the other elements, rather than photographed optically with the rest of the scene.

If you've got examples of movies still using some of the old-school techniques (Christopher Nolan still famously uses miniatures), feel free to share them below.     

Your Comment

9 Comments

Do you want to know more: An in-depth article plus extensive video-interviews with the main VFX-players of that time looking back can be found here:

http://www.fxguide.com/featured/fxphd-the-role-of-the-optical-printer/

And the After Effects-demonstration of how an optical printer worked at the end of the video is probably the highlight (at least it was for me).

Greets,
Anteeru

January 11, 2015 at 7:07PM, Edited January 11, 7:07PM

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An excellent article. I found it very interesting to see that alot of the compositing techniques (such as mattes) used with optical printers are still applicable with modern compositors like After Effects.

January 11, 2015 at 7:14PM, Edited January 11, 7:14PM

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Darren Place
Visual Effects Artist
81

My God these tools were HUGE.

January 12, 2015 at 4:09AM, Edited January 12, 4:09AM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
681

I use to build miniatures and force perspective models. I miss the days working with David Stipes and his hand build motion control rig. Sitting at a computer is just not the same. ~ Jeff Varga

January 12, 2015 at 7:40PM

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Jeff Varga
Director / Cinematographer / VFX Supervisor
76

Wow. Just spent the better part of the last hour watching these incredible videos. It's truly fascinating to see how much the tools have advanced but are essentially the same - it's just all done digitally, but the principals of compositing, shooting foreground elements and replacing backgrounds are all still true today.

And it still completely astounds me, every single time, to see how painstakingly meticulous the optical printing process was. I just can't believe the patience and discipline it took. There's no "undo" button - if you misalign one of those 63 separate elements, the whole thing is trashed and you need to start over. The craftsmanship of these individuals is just insane.

January 13, 2015 at 2:34AM, Edited January 13, 2:34AM

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Oren Soffer
Director of Photography
2202

Not to mention the variety of scale models that are detailed enough to seamlessly fit into the film. The fact that each one was hand crafted is amazing.

January 13, 2015 at 11:25PM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
624

Awesome stuff!

January 15, 2015 at 7:51PM

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Here is the full version of the ILM documentary:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qya0vK6xTF8

January 18, 2015 at 10:27AM, Edited January 18, 10:27AM

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"Darth Varder" hahaha! :D

August 18, 2015 at 6:28PM

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