Watch: Vintage 1984 NOVA Episode on 'The Magic of Special Effects'

May 22, 2015
Source: YouTube

The Magic of Special Effects

"These are the modern masters of the art and science of special effects." Now this is good. Earlier in the week we featured the image from Wired's story about the "Magic" of ILM, or Industrial Light & Magic, and their extensive history as a special effects/visual effects house. Well, to follow up that fantastic look back, our friends at SlashFilm have found a vintage video from 1984 looking inside ILM and it's a must watch. It's an episode of NOVA, that long-running documentary television show, and it's all about "The Magic of Special Effects". Up to this point, it really was all about practical special effects and it's kind of amazing and inspiring to look back at how they pulled off this cinema magic back then. They profile films like Explorers, Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. You just need to watch this!

Thanks again to SlashFilm for the tip on this fantastic video. "The Magic of Special Effects" description from YouTube: "A 1984 documentary on special effects for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Explorers, Return of the Jedi, and 2010. The section in particular on how they did the 150 ships battle scene in Jedi shows just how much manual work went into the shot (it took months)." It's cool to see Dennis Muren and Joe Johnston featured in here as well. These older behind-the-scenes videos are so good because they had unrestricted access back then to get all kinds of behind-the-scenes footage, and it's crazy what they capture and show in this. I mean, they're literally in the editing room watching him work the editing machine! We definitely don't see that in any featurettes anymore. Glad someone put this online. What do you make of it?

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Reader Feedback - 5 Comments


Love NOVA. This was so cool. We have come so far in really not that much time. G-d knows what things will look like in another 30.

DAVIDPD on May 23, 2015


The next 30 years the movie industry might not exist as it does today anymore. Most movies and series can now be made by eager fans, groups alike, on a low budget, and anyone who can afford to donate towards production costs. Why waste millions on CGI, expensive sets, and big name snooty actors?

Mike Zarquon on May 24, 2015


Most movies? What are you talking about? Like which ones? Most kickstarter films i've seen were terrible. And why is a waste to have expensive sets?

Sascha Dikiciyan on May 24, 2015


The principles behind what it takes to make good films (i.e.: talent, skill, excellence, collaboration, good writing, etc.) will never change - no matter how far technology advances! True, with CGI we have access to quicker and easier special effects but that doesn't automatically give you good content. There are reasons why good moviemaking is expensive. There is also something special about the techniques they were showing in this program. For Star Wars VII, they have returned to using film and more in-camera work because it looks and feels more natural and realistic than what was used in Episodes I-III. By the way, this is still an excellent documentary. I remember seeing it on TV many years ago. Thanks to whoever posted it!

David Loewen on Feb 8, 2016


It's a shame that California and the US Studios farms out all the Visual Effects work to other countries.

Winter Is Coming on May 25, 2015

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