The Evolution Of Cinematic Special Effects This is TALK OF THE NATION.
I'm Neal Conan in Washington. This past holiday weekend provided the best box office in Hollywood history and the biggest hit was James Cameron's sci fi epic Avatar, which raked in 75 million all by itself. If you haven't seen it, the movie charms for pandora necklace takes place in the year 2154, on a moon called Pandora, where we humans are the aliens. And it features breathtaking special effects, best seen in 3D. Some critics complain the storyline is both trite and derivative, the dialogue nothing special but there is unanimous praise for the true, out of this world 3D experience with vivid colors, texture and cinematography that combine to bring the wow factor back to the screen. There are a lot of movies that claim to change the entire movie going experience and some actually did it. The Jazz Singer, The Wizard of Oz, The Ten Commandments, Star Wars, The Matrix. Which film, which scene, which special effect raised the bar for you? Our phone number: 800 989 8255. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later in the program, West African correspondent Ofeibea Quist Arcton will join us with a profile of the man charged with trying to blow up a trans continental airliner on Christmas day. But first, Richard Rickitt is with us. He lectures on special effects at the British Film Institute and joins us on the phone from his home in England. Nice to have you on the program with us today. Mr. CONAN: And Avatar has certainly raised the bar this time around. And the use of 3D, there have been a rash of movies in 3D. This one seems to be surpassing them all. Mr. RICKITT: Yes, it does. I think, well, it's something that James Cameron's had an interest in for a long time. I think he's decided that it was time to give it a go in one of his own movies. And it's, well, by all accounts, it's been very successful. CONAN: And, of course, as you studied the history of special effects, well, moving pictures are themselves a special effect. I mean, going back to the days when you had the, you know, the flip pictures of horses running and that sort of thing. Mr. RICKITT: Well, that's right. I mean, in the very earliest days of the moving pictures, the very fact that pictures could move was in itself a special effect. And in fact, way back in 1895, when the Lumiere brothers first showed a film of a railway engine coming into a station, people who were watching it jumped up and ran away because they thought this engine was actually about to smash through the screen and run them over. CONAN: It should be pointed out, this was a silent picture. CONAN: And, of course, one of the biggest special effects revolutions of all time was sound, The Jazz Singer. Mr. RICKITT: Yes, well, that was sound in fact created a lot of problems for people creating visual effects because up until that point, films had been made oftentimes outside, in the great outdoors. And all of a sudden, because of sound recording, films had to be made indoors, in a sound stage. And so the problem was how to get the great outdoors indoors and that led to the creation of things like rear screen projection, you would probably be familiar with that, that often seen image of a Hollywood actor in a car or on a ship with a sometimes not very well projected scene behind them. And that was because filmmakers had to find a way of bringing the outside into the studio. CONAN: And you could also get films that seemed, well, you know, raising the bar at the time. You think of a film like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, with those great images of all those birds flocking. And you see it today and, well, it's not so convincing. Mr. RICKITT: Well, unfortunately no. We're all so sophisticated visually now that we often see things that were once considered incredibly realistic and they no longer look that way. But it's hardly surprising. I mean, when you think about The Birds, I mean, a lot of those images of The Birds were just in fact painted birds, they were matte paintings on a sheet of glass. And to make them look as if they were real birds, they scraped little bits of paint off the back of the painting and moved a light behind it. So, when they filmed it, it looked as if the birds were in fact moving. CONAN: And indeed, though, you can go back to the earliest days of cinema to directors like D. W. Griffith and people like that and find these enormous sets that were constructed to represent places like Babylon and, of course, well, The Ten Commandments, I guess, is one of the great ones of all time, a little bit later, of course. Mr. RICKITT: Yes, indeed. charm bracelets pandora In fact, at one point, you know, Hollywood, in fact particularly in the 1950s when television was taking over and causing quite a threat, filmmakers actually decided not to use special effects so much and to actually build these enormous sets. And they used that as part of their publicity to persuade people to come and see the films. CONAN: And a cast of thousands. Mr. RICKITT: Thousands and thousands pandora bracelet gold of people, which, of course, now would all be computer generated. CONAN: Indeed, but parting the Red Sea, still pretty impressive. Mr. RICKITT: Yes it is, two versions of that, of course. And people have their own favorite but it's still an impressive sight to see. CONAN: As you look back, though, there have been notable failures of some technologies that were introduced. Well, 3D the first time around, a novelty act for a little while. We remember Vincent Price stabbing through the screen but other than that it didn't catch on. Mr. RICKITT: No, but unfortunately the 3D was brought in first in the 1950s. The first film it use it was something called Bwana Devil. And filmmakers got rather carried away with the process and the effects rather than telling stories. And so after about 18 months that particular craze dried up because the films were generally so poor, they relied on having something leaping out of the screen at you pandora sale sydney rather than telling a story, which I think is a salutary note to the filmmakers of today. CONAN: Whatever technology they may embrace, story is still the most important thing. CONAN: And let's see we get some callers in on this conversation. We're talking about the special effects that changed the cinematic experience for you, raised the bar for everything that followed 800 989 8255. And Marion(ph) is with us, calling from Rochester in New York. MARION (Caller): Yes, I have been raised in the South. I am accustomed to seeing many, many birds and trying to catch them, setting various traps for them. You can never get close to them. And the mere fact that I saw tons and tons of birds running at people, knocking blood out of them, banging into windows and just wreaking a tornado like havoc into the community, I was just blown away. I was scooting down in my seat and if my older brother hadn't have held me, I would have jumped up and ran out of the movie. CONAN: I thought that they were just trying to get Rod Taylor's suit to be a little bit less thin, it was so tight on him. But, anyway, yeah, The Birds, at the time, Richard Rickitt, was really impressive. Mr. RICKITT: It was, it was a very impressive film. And, you know, people were very, very scared by it and, you know, had became averse to birds the rest of their lives, some people. Similar to the effect that Jaws had some years later.
CONAN: Just when you were ready to go back in the water, Jaws 2, of course, yes. Thanks very much for the call, Marion. We hope you've made your peace with the birds from now on.
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