When combined with a great story and compelling performances, directors can utilize visual effects to take their films to a level of immersion that was once impossible. Audiences are becoming more and more familiar with visual effects in movies (almost every one of the top grossing films of the last decade have relied on extensive visual effects work); but they are not necessarily familiar with those who are actually responsible for this work.
The new book "Masters of FX" from Focal Press highlights 16 of the visual effects professionals who are among the best in their craft. Each featured person gets about 10-12 pages which discusses 4-5 of their most well known movies. In reading through the book, which highlights the various VFX milestones that these individuals were a part of, it's fascinating to see just how many of these guys were involved in some way with the "Star Wars" movies - Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Richard Edlund, etc.
Here are some others you may (or should) know:
- Chris Corbould: special effects supervisor on the James Bond franchise and the Dark Knight trilogy.
- John Knoll: CCO of Industrial Light & Magic, co-creator of Photoshop, and VFX supervisor of the Star Wars prequels and the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
- Joe Letteri: director of Weta Digital and 4-time Oscar winner for his work on Avatar, King Kong (2005), and Lord of the Rings.
A wide variety of movies are discussed, so there's something here for everyone. Naturally, there are a lot of science fiction and fantasy films given that they are more reliant on effects than other genres. The book went to press in 2015, and there's no shortage of recent films mentioned (World War Z, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar). But all the classics are here too - Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The topics discussed are just as diverse as the people and films featured. When people hear visual effects they tend to think of CGI and digital effects. But the text serves as a reminder that artists were creating unique characters and environments using practical effects long before the days of computer assistance. The book discusses models and miniatures, forced perspective, and good old-fashioned stunt work.
I should also mention that the book includes two forewords - one by director James Cameron and the other by producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Cameron states it best when he says "VFX is a love affair with the impossible". There is also a handy glossary with 30+ terms that are relevant to visual effects (rotoscoping, matchmaking, rendering, etc).
A book about visual effects no doubt will rely heavily on imagery, and there is plenty of it to be found in the pages of "Masters of FX". I actually found myself wanting to see even more imagery to support the text - each film gets only 1-2 pictures. The good news is that where there are pictures, they are all printed large and at a high resolution. I should also mention that in general, the layout of the book is very appealing.
Through its profiles of these VFX pioneers and their films, "Masters of FX" is a successful exploration into a complex and fascinating art form.
Full list of individuals profiled:
- John Bruno - Chris Corbould - Richard Edlund - Scott Farrar - Paul Franklin - Karen Goulekas - Ian Hunter - John Knoll - Robert Legato - Joe Letteri - Dennis Muren - John Rosengrant - Phil Tippett - Douglas Trumbull - Bill Westenhofer - Edson Williams
BUY THE BOOK on Amazon.
A big thanks to Focal Press for making this book available to me for review.
*Republished from partner site MovieArtBook.com
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