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Cinema's Greatest Effects Shots Picked By Hollywood's Top VFX Specialists
From Metropolis to T-1000, we discover the effects that inspired today's VFX masters

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From Eadweard Muybridge and George Méliès to James Cameron and Phil Tippett, the history of movie effects is basically the greatest bedtime story never told. Except it’s a yarn so full of dragons, dinosaurs and mimetic polyalloy killing machines sent back from the future that you’d never get any sleep after hearing it. As Life Of Pi and Avatar amply demonstrate, there are many chapters still to be written and innovations still to be forged, but whether in-camera, matte, prosthetic, CG, or just lovingly modelled by a man with a passion for Plasticine, effects have brought magic to the movies since the silent era. In a unique celebration of the art, Empire asked the people who make them happen to pick their favourites.

WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN
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Davy Jones (Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest)

DAVY JONES
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

SELECTED BY GARY BROZENICH - VFX SUPERVISOR, MPC

 

 

Emmy nominated for his work on HBO’s Rome, MPC's Gary Brozenich has worked with Gore Verbinski on The Lone Ranger and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. His pick – a ground-breaking piece of ILM work – features in another Verbinski blockbuster.

"The moment when you meet Davy Jones in extreme close-up (in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), saying, “Do you fear death?”, just blew me away. And every shot after that got better and better. It wasn’t just the photo-realism, it was the combination of creature design, the strong character delivered by Bill Nighy and the finished polish that was unprecendented. It’s not just the visual effects, it’s the cool character design by (conceptual designer) Crash McCreery, Gore Verbinski and that team, the performance by Bill Nighy and ILM’s mo-cap technology, which was revolutionary at the time. Davy Jones has this muffled voice because he doesn’t have a nose, and the way he cocks his head to put his pipe in his mouth to avoid the tentacles is just brilliant. They were doing all this in difficult conditions, on ships and confined spaces, so technically it was pretty amazing. In fact, to this day I can’t think of another character that comes across as well as he does. They threw all caution to the wind and made it work. He’s great from the ground up."

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Your Comments

1
I'm more of a fan of practical effects rather than CGI: don't get me wrong, some of the CG effects today are sensationally stunning, like the tiger in Life of Pi, and useful for crowd shots etc, but I prefer the more old fashioned effects. I use Star Wars as a great example of this: Original trilogy with it's wonderful stop-motion and puppets with a few CG effects to enhance everything. Then the prequel trilogy. In fact, just look at what happened to Yoda: he felt so real in the original trilogy, yet in the prequel it just looked too streamline and ruined it a little. Yoda is a quirky little guy so having him as this sleek, Jedi master (even though he was one) just spoilt it a little for me! Great picks on the list, though, agree with all of them for the most part! More

Posted by Biolally92 on Thursday September 26, 2013, 18:39

2 Superman (1978) Helicopter Rescue
Stunning combination of traditional effects with emotional impact for Superman's first appearance to the world. I used to be very interested in special effects work pre-digital when clever and innovative engineering was to the forefront. Now I find that articles on effects (E.G. in Cinefex) are all very similar discussing how this or that was rendered by software, etc.. More

Posted by cdrPieton on Tuesday September 24, 2013, 10:08

3 Blair Monster.
The Thing will always be in my mind for effects that make me want to create movie magic. More

Posted by gerizekalu on Saturday August 31, 2013, 10:34

4 Bullet Time (Matrix)
Missed it by innovation More

Posted by mariofilho on Sunday August 25, 2013, 15:48

5 Dark City (1998)
The awe of the city folding upon itself, the atmosphere and the sound effects was a precursor to more modern VFX films. You could see origins from past ground breaking sets such as Metropolis and the influenced on future ground breaking works such as The Matrix (they reused some of the same sets) and Inception (sound and lighting atmosphere). Interesting that the cinematographer Dariusz Wolski also worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean films. More

Posted by Anderton2013 on Saturday August 24, 2013, 04:40

6 Time travel in 2001? Nope.
It was a stargate, Dave Bowman was travelling through space, not time. More

Posted by clivex on Friday August 23, 2013, 18:55

7 The Thing.. The Whole movie
All of Rob Bottin's work on John Carpenter's The Thing. Especially this scene, they guy went through hell top produce such high quality effects often with damage to his own health. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjIXwkX1e48 More

Posted by artemus on Friday August 23, 2013, 16:54

8 RE: Can't any of you people read?
Some great choices, and I was glad to see mention of that opening shot from ‘Contact’. It reminded me of the stand-out effects scene from that film which is still a stunning moment. The bombing of The Machine is played out so beautifully and some brilliant editing switching between real time and news-studio footage, plus the effective distance from the scene and its slow unfolding lend it an air of genuine realism. www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdcE3VyKv5U More

Posted by Tullothy on Friday August 16, 2013, 14:14

9 RE: Effects that inspired
Oh, and Inception of course. Indeed that corridor fight was a real humdinger. One of those moments in the cinema where you could practically hear everyone's jaws hit the floor. More

Posted by Mr Gittes on Friday August 9, 2013, 20:32

10 RE: Effects that inspired
Too many to mention: The Matrix just about took my scalp off when I saw it; the animatronics in The Thing and American Werewolf In London still hold up; Jurassic Park is a perfect mix of all kinds of effects; and I agree with a previous poster about A.I. - jaw-dropping stuff. Of course, Metropolis, 2001 and Blade Runner have spectacular effects too, but my personal favourites are from the original Star Wars trilogy. The Hoth attack and the asteroid field sequences are amazingly well-realised, and the space battle in Return Of The Jedi is outstanding, but it's the Death Star attack in the first one that takes it for me; that POV trench run shot might just be my all-time favourite special effects shot in film history. Just so much creativity in those original three films. Nothing in the prequels comes close. More

Posted by Mr Gittes on Friday August 9, 2013, 20:27

11 RE: ...
The lack of mention of The Matrix & LOTR is criminal, especially when half of this list is forgettable crap. Also Titanic, Avatar, Revenge of the Sith, The Mummy etc More

Posted by NeoBrowser on Tuesday August 6, 2013, 21:05

12 RE: Terminator
Quite surprised to see the bathroom scene from The Terminator listed here - while it's a great film & some of the effects are pretty darn good considering the (relatively) low budget, The Arnie puppet never really did it for me, even at the time - always looked a bit, well, crap & certainly not one of the great Stan Winston's finest hours (he more made up for it with the exo-skeleton at the end tho!) More

Posted by Brundlesflies on Monday August 5, 2013, 10:30

13 RE: Matrix + Jedi
I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the exclusion of Matrix and Jedi! Matrix lobby scene is still amazing nearly 15 years on. The 'it's a trap' moment in Jedi is probably still the best space fight in films to date! More

Posted by eddybaby83 on Friday August 2, 2013, 14:33

14 RE: Just CGI?
L: silenttheo So its a CGI only list? If not where is 'The Thing' incredible prosthetics! Also surprised to see Davey Jones over Golum considering the praise and awards thrown at the filthy little ring snatcher! o, there are a few non-CG things pictured and many more discussed. These are all the choices of the VFX artists mentioned so it's not an exhaustive list, nor is it intended as such. More

Posted by Helen OHara on Thursday August 1, 2013, 13:59

15 Just CGI?
So its a CGI only list? If not where is 'The Thing' incredible prosthetics!   Also surprised to see Davey Jones over Golum considering the praise and awards thrown at the filthy little ring snatcher! More

Posted by silenttheo on Tuesday July 30, 2013, 20:20

16 RE: inception corridor scene
Great list. For me Jurassic Park is still 'the one'. Watched it the other day and still blown away by it. I wish they could incorporate animatronics like they used to, the blend was perfect, especially in the T Rex/Jeep scene. I could rant all day about the overuse of CGI but I'm not. What I will say is that one of my favourite uses of CGI was in Hidden/Cache when the chap cuts his throat, I wil NEVER forget it. More

Posted by Boyden on Tuesday July 30, 2013, 13:31

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