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Special Effects

Alternate Title(s): Special Effects: Anything Can Happen

bigImage SPECIAL EFFECTS, a Large Format Film funded by NOVA/WGBH Boston, with the participation of eighteen science museums, tells the behind-the-scenes story of a group of special effects filmmakers whose goal it is to create an extraordinary special effect sequence in this larger-than-life film format. The film begins by showing the early inventors--the Lumière Brothers, E.J. Marey and Edison--and how motion picture technology was exploited by artists such as Méliès. Other segments include a history-making re-creation of several of the most breathtaking shots from the original Star Wars film in IMAX by Industrial Light & Magic, and backstage looks at the making of Lucasfilm's epic Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition (distributed by Twentieth Century Fox), Independence Day from Fox, Jumanji from TriStar Pictures, Inc., and Kazaam from Interscope Communications, Inc. Examples of key concepts in perception, such as persistence of vision and induced movement, are used throughout the film to explain how filmmakers are able to achieve their illusions. The unique concept of this film is to bring together the history of cinema and the art of filmmaking with the science of perception.

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Film Info

Video Clips

Clips & Trailers:

Special Effects: Jumanji [Real 300 K]

Special Effects: Shaquille in Kazaam [Real 300 K]

Special Effects: Star Wars [Real 300 K]

Film Status

Now Playing


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A production of NOVA/WGBH Boston. Producer: Susanne Simpson. Director: Ben Burtt. Co-Producer: Laurel Ladevich. Distributed by Imax Corporation. Executive Producer: Paula S. Apsell. Writers: Susanne Simpson, Ben Burtt, Tom Friedman. Directors of Photography: Reed Smoot, Jack Tankard. Narrator: John Lithgow. Music: Christopher Stone. Special Visual Effects: Industrial Light & Magic. Special Effects was nominated in 1997 for an Academy Award® in the Best Documentary Short Subjects Category.


Outside Reviews:

"Imax reveals secrets of movie magic" By Louis B. Hobson, Calgary Sun

"Especially big 'Effects' made for Omnimax" By Margaret A. McGurk, The Cincinnati Enquirer

"Special Effects" By Ann Kwinn, Box Office Magazine

"Quick Change Artists" By Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

"Bugs and Michael Work the Fast Break" By Fletcher Roberts, The New York Times (registration req'd)

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