While CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, is a tool that is used in most movies today, this wasn’t always the case. Practical effects were much more common years ago before this technology came about. Instead of using technology to add effects, practical effects are physical props and real-world objects. These types of effects, when done right, can be amazing. Here’s a list of 4 movies that made practical effects work:
1. JAWS (1975)
The 1975 film “Jaws” made innovative use of practical effects to bring its terrifying shark to life. The most notable practical effect is Bruce the Shark. It was created by special effects pioneer Bob Mattey. The crew built the shark in three different sizes (25, 20, and 12 feet long) and it was controlled using hydraulic pumps and cables, by a team of operators. They also used footage of real sharks that was gathered by employing a team of divers to get unique footage to create a sense of realism.
Floating barrels that were filled with styrofoam had small explosive charges inside that would be triggered as the shark pulled them underwater. This created a dramatic effect on the camera to convey the speed and power the shark was supposed to have. Another water effect that was used was a “water sled”, along with lighting and filtering effects, allowing the camera to move throughout the water smoothly to mimic the shark swimming.
2. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
Although this is a modern movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” directed by George Miller, is known for its breathtaking action sequences and its use of practical effects to create this post-apocalyptic world. The movie features multiple types of practical effects. They used real stunts and action sequences by creating more durable and functional vehicles, which featured weapons and unique modifications. Miller also used real explosions that were choreographed and used carefully to protect the cast and crew.
The movie also features many characters who have unique and highly detailed prosthetics makeup. This includes the War Boys and Immortan Joe. Filming took place in South Africa and Nambia, which allowed the crew to create real sets that made the post-apocalyptic world feel even more realistic. One of the most iconic sequences in the movie is the sandstorm, which was done by using a combination of practical and visual effects. They used real sand, dust, and debris to create a physical and palpable experience for the actors and crew.
3. THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter’s 1982 horror movie “The Thing” is another film known for its groundbreaking and impressive practical effects. They helped create a sense of terror and dread. The main effect was the animatronic creature “The Thing” in its various forms. The animatronics were designed and created by special effects wizard Rob Bottin, who used a combination of mechanics, puppetry, and hydraulics to bring the creatures to life.
Along with animatronics, the special effect makeup and prosthetics also added to the horror. The prosthetics were designed to be realistic and highly detailed. They had intricate textures, muscle structures, and veins. These along with fake blood, goo, and slime were created to show the multiple transformations of human characters into alien creatures.
4. JURASSIC PARK (1993)
Steven Spielberg’s film “Jurassic Park” revolutionized the use of practical effects in modern cinema. The movie combined innovative practical effects with CGI to create a sense of terror and awe in its audience. The movie featured several full-scale animatronic dinosaurs, including a T-Rex, a triceratops, and a velociraptor created by Stan Winston Studio. They were controlled by a team of puppeteers and technicians. A combination of hydraulics, motors, and electronics were used to bring the creatures to life. Smaller dinosaur puppets were also used for close-up scenes or scenes that needed the creatures to have a bit more movement. They had highly-detailed eyes, teeth, and skin textures.
Along with the animatronic dinosaurs, the set design was also created to make the world more realistic. The crew not only created life-size models of dinosaur eggs, nests, and fossils, but used physical elements such as rain, mud, and wind during filming. For the sound design, they creatively combined different animal noises to create the sounds of the dinosaurs. This included elephants, tigers, and alligators, along with various electronic and digital effects.
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