26 October 2015

Movie magic - the story of special effects in the cinema



John Brosnan 1974


This is less a review of a book and more a remembrance of my youth. I recently had an overpowering desire to read this book again. My original was lost in a flood eons ago and I thought I had forgotten about it...but I found myself frantically searching Amazon and buying the hard cover without a second thought.

I have absolutely no regrets. It is rare when something so influential from your youth not only holds up, but surpasses your expectations coloured by decades of fond memories. In many ways this book cemented my desire to work in visual effects for movies. I, like many kids was fascinated by monsters and spaceships, but unlike many kids I wanted to know how they were made and do it myself. This book is still inspiring despite or possibly because of the now out of date descriptions of how special effects were done back in the days before Star Wars and digital techniques changed forever how films were made.

Written well before the digital age, the histories and interviews seem much more authentic than something written today. After all, the people who invented film magic were still around to talk about the early days of the art and scale models, puppets and hand done matte paintings were still state of the art when this was published. Brosnan does more than just explain techniques but gives the context and personal stories around how all the classic and not so classic miracles of the silver screen came to be.

Reading this book has inspired and encouraged me all over again to keep pushing my craft and reminding me that while some things may be easier, sometimes the old ways were best or at the  very least, retain their charm and power to this day in a way modern effects are somewhat less able to accomplish.
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