As a kid I was really into special effects. I think it started with Terminator 2. Although the visions of a white hot nuclear holocaust terrified my ten year-old self, it was the shape-shifting T1000 that first caught my eye and stuck with me. My interest in special effects persisted for many years after the image of Sarah Connor’s burning skeleton clinging to a playground fence had faded from memory. (Man, how many times in my life will I ever write a sentence that cool?)
For a while my favorite TV show was the Discovery Channel’s Movie Magic, which was like a detailed effects documentary for a different movie every week. It was a far better show than the superficial effects segments on Entertainment Tonight, where the commentary usually amounted to, “So you used a computer? Really?”
Some kids dreamed of being astronauts. Me? I wanted to work for Industrial Light and Magic. Working with computer generated imagery was expensive back then but I dabbled in whatever I could. These days I’m a humble digital warrior, using my Photoshop powers for good instead of evil. I know of at least one kid who lived the dream, Ryan Weber, whom ILM hired after the internet debut of Ryan vs. Dorkman. If you’ve never watched this unbelievably polished lightsaber duel, please do so. Now.
Sure, we all remember the glowing sci-fi broadswords and liquid metal assassins, but there’s a saying in the industry: the best special effects are the ones you never notice. So have a look at this making-of reel from Buzz Image. I’ll bet you never thought Brokeback Mountain needed effects work.
Oh, and Terminator 2? I watched it recently. The special effects still hold up.