Reverse Engineering 1980s Sci-Fi Spaceship Visual Effects

Space Ship Effect
A look into how one creative filmmaker reverse engineered how to create his very own 1980s style spaceship visual effects.

For many, there may not be a more singularly impressive visual effects shot than the opening spacecraft shot in the original Star Wars from 1977. While for many audiences, the visual effects have been updated to reflect more modern digital technology, the original was done using some of the most direct and simplistic measures available at the time.

Nowadays, our biggest blockbusters are far removed from simple scale models and projected background setups, but for some that nostalgic aesthetic was what made their favorite films great.

As filmmakers, it’s important for us to both embrace technology but still acknowledge the past while continuously challenging ourselves in the process. One Youtuber filmmaker, to his credit, has taken on this challenge firsthand with his own question:

“Using prosumer technology and a bit of duct tape, can I create the kind of practical establish effects shot of a spaceship that would have been seen in 1980s sci fi films?”

While not a completed mission by his own admission, it’s impressive to see how modern digital filmmaking technology can actually lend itself quite well to the same 70s and 80s style visual effects which are now well ingrained in our cinematic consciousness.

If anyone else is up to the challenge, or produced similar effects or projects of their own, let us know and feel free to share them in the comments below.     

Your Comment


I'm a fan ... nice job

January 31, 2019 at 6:15AM, Edited January 31, 6:15AM


I built a model and used a blue screen to do this short film.
I was a massive learning curve for me but loved every second!

February 1, 2019 at 12:26AM, Edited February 1, 12:26AM

Paul Bruce

Not bad for sure, but I feel he really dropped the ball on the lighting. I mean two simple things would have helped immensely:
1. Get the green screen waaaay back from the model. Having it all bunched up and so close had to have made the job much harder.
2. Kill ALL ambient light in the foreground and get one nice strong hard spot on the ship. And because the green screen is now back, get some very soft but even light on that.

February 1, 2019 at 2:34PM

Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics

February 2, 2019 at 3:53AM, Edited February 2, 3:54AM

Rafael Vandermeerschen
writer director producer

Awesome, I'm so happy someone still cares about these effects which frankly even my wife agrees in many ways looks better than modern effects. Please keep it up, don't let this art get lost.

February 2, 2019 at 6:29AM