From the very first moving pictures through to the ‘talkies’, and animation shorts to 3D films and beyond, we have always been fascinated with finding out what goes on behind the silver screen. Just as visual effects have become more sophisticated, so too have the audiences. Seemingly no longer content with the magic unfolding in front of us, we have an innate need to understand how it was created, and expect every last moment of a film to be realistic – regardless of whether we’re watching two people talk, or a knight battling a fearsome dragon. So, how do they do it?
Creating the magic, making memories
The process of creating a film is a long, complicated one, involving budgeting, storyboards, scriptwriting and editing sessions, endless meetings and discussions regarding plausibility, data capturing, filming, more editing, digital video production, modelling and texturing, animating, 3D rendering, and more – and that’s often without the involvement of any actors at all. We, as the audience, want to see, and to experience, so much more – to not only see the battle, but to feel as though we’ve been there, standing between friend and foe.
Expecto: behind the scenes
Just as the humbler days of movie magic no longer capture our attention, it’s often not enough to simply show us on the screen either; we want to know how an effect was created, discover the techniques to manipulate a scene, and visit the sets that we know and love from the silver screen. In short, everybody is a film buff these days. The good news is that studio tours, behind the scenes documentaries, and YouTube shorts are now more popular than ever, placing us all at the heart of the action.
Harry Potter, for example, is one of the world’s biggest, and most magical, film franchises, featuring more spells than you could shake a stick – or wand – at. With its moving staircases, personable paintings, villains aplenty, and a boy wizard with an invisibility cloak, there are just one or two visual effects involved – and we want to know exactly how that was all achieved within the walls of the Warner Bros Studios. Luckily for us the studio was listening, and its tour, affectionately dubbed Harry Potter world, was born. Imagine all of the sets, costumes, props, animatronics, and wicked wizardry, all in one place, with each effect explained, and the opportunity to create your own magic. While standing alongside the real Hogwarts Express, supping Butter Beer on Privet Drive, and moseying along Diagon Alley may not be the highlight of everybody’s life, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more magical and exhilarating way to spend a day.
From huge explosions and talking animals, to floating inanimate objects and time travel, visual effects play a HUGE part in the films and television shows that we absorb on a daily basis. Without them, we would barely believe the magic, but their inclusion also inspires a great deal of curiosity; how did they make an owl do that?