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From Star Wars To Gravity: The Special Effects Milestones That Shaped Cinema
The movies that changed the way we make movies…

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As Sandra Bullock and George Clooney battled malfunctioning technology miles above the Earth, we got to thinking about other game-changing moments in special effects history, the films that did things in a new and innovative way. Here are our choices for the most significant moments between Star Wars and Gravity. As always, give us your own thoughts in the comments.

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From Star Wars To Gravity: The Special Effects Milestones That Shaped Cinema | Bound For Glory
Bound For Glory

Year: 1976

Innovation: Steadicam

Significant because: OK, this is a year before Star Wars, but we’re going to allow it. Designer and camera operator Garrett Brown had been developing a system for taking smooth moving shots over rough terrain and through crowds since the early ‘70s, with a machine that requires its operator to be half-weight lifter and half-ballet dancer. Renamed from its original moniker of the Brown Stabiliser, the Steadicam made its debut here, in an immediately virtuoso three-minute sequence.

Led to: Rocky, Marathon Man, The Shining

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Your Comments

1 No Nemo??
Surely Finding Nemo should be on there above Life of Pi!? I mean the whole thing was set in the freaking Ocean! Also Gravity?? I've seen the effects done bigger and better in numerous other features! More

Posted by J_BUltimatum on Saturday November 23, 2013, 11:44

2 RE: No Bladerunner?
Well, I got what you mean Osric.I suppose I feel that those guys did not get enough credit for that intricate work. That was probably because the film was at first a bomb, and Ridley and Ford got all the attention. Overall though I feel that the look of that picture made a very significant impact on decades of sci-fi and action pictures. I grant that it was partly rendered by old school methods like production design, painted inserts, miniatures, full scale mock-up crafts etc. But there are few films that have so convincingly pulled it off, perhaps 1941. Nice talking More

Posted by ado123 on Thursday November 21, 2013, 19:16

3 RE: No Bladerunner?
It's amazing, but what's in it that they had to invent specially for the job? Just brilliant set design and really cool miniatures. The remit of the feature isn't 'really cool'. More

Posted by Osric on Wednesday November 20, 2013, 23:07

4 No Bladerunner?
If you left this out you just do not know what you are doing. More

Posted by ado123 on Wednesday November 20, 2013, 21:44

5 RE: The Corridor? Leading to the use of extras? What?
L: Nicky C how does the use of a rotating corridor 'lead' to the use of thousands of extras instead of CG? ecause it's Nolan shying away from CG and moving back to practical even if it's fucking massively difficult, so it leads to him filling a football stadium with real people in TDKR rather than drawing them in like Ridley. I didn't think that was unclear. Also, they mention Kubrick. Had you stopped reading by that point? More

Posted by Osric on Wednesday November 20, 2013, 21:19

Was Blade not released before the matrix? meaning it was pretty hard for the Matrix to lead into Blade? More

Posted by hellboyx on Monday November 18, 2013, 13:16

No mention of the revolutionary 'morphing' effects in Willow? Come on now. More

Posted by DancingClown on Monday November 18, 2013, 07:52

8 RE:
L: Darren47 Most of the movies here deserve to be here. But what does Sky Captian have to do with innovation? You said it inspired 300, and the effects were Chessy. And the (visual) effects of Life of Pi and Inception are overrated! mm.. The CGI backlots as it clearly states? Like the effects or not, that fact that all the backgrounds were computer generated was a first and showed that it was becoming possible to pretty much create anything you wanted to now, rather then being limited by what you prop department could build or what locations you could find to film in. More

Posted by GrizBe on Saturday November 16, 2013, 17:28

Most of the movies here deserve to be here. But what does Sky Captian have to do with innovation? You said it inspired 300, and the effects were Chessy. And the (visual) effects of Life of Pi and Inception are overrated! More

Posted by Darren47 on Saturday November 16, 2013, 15:18

10 RE: Stained Glass Knight
@Osric: Well believe it or not its true. Mostly the scene featuring the exterior of the Smokers oil tanker on the ocean are examples of where the ocean was CGI water effect. I'll also point out that Titanic and Perfect Storm also both used large scale CGI ocean effects way before Life of Pi. @Topper_Harley: They've edited the article since I last posted. Young Sherlock Holmes for instance didn't have the 'Photorealistic' etc until I'd pointed it out. Also... the 'bullet time' technique of the camera movie around the object in slow motion had been used before the Matrix too. However I will completely agree that it wouldn't have been a common terminology without The Matrix. More

Posted by GrizBe on Friday November 15, 2013, 10:32

11 Stained Glass Knight
That's still up there in my opinion. I remember being totally blown away by that. Excellent article as ever. More

Posted by spacemonkey187 on Friday November 15, 2013, 09:45

12 RE: You made some mistakes....
The article does not say that the Matrix invented 'bullet time', it is quite clear about it being a synthesis of many pre-existing techniques. That said, it was the Matrix that brought the term 'bullet time' into common effects parlance. The Matrix's main innovation was the introduction of a moving camera revolving round 'live' actors, best illustrated in the scene in the photograph from the start of the movie where Carrie Moss jumps into the air, goes slo-mo, and the camera does a 360 degree tour around her before she delivers the kick. It is this moving camera that is the 'bullet time' innovation in the Matrix, not the slo-mo bullet dodges. More

Posted by Topper_Harley on Thursday November 14, 2013, 23:08

13 RE: You made some mistakes....
Given that they hadn't even cracked photorealistic water by Pirates of the Caribbean I'd call that a stretch. More

Posted by Osric on Thursday November 14, 2013, 21:43

14 RE: You made some mistakes....
Yeah.. hard to believe, but, typically being set on the ocean, large sections of it were CGI in Waterworld. Hell, its credited as having the first photorealistic CGI water... Also... ReBoot. Largely forgotten by a lot of people as it is, it came about in 94 and was noted as being the first fully CGI animated tv series... So argueably, it was CGI's first commercial success, a year before Toy Story. More

Posted by GrizBe on Thursday November 14, 2013, 18:20

15 RE: You made some mistakes....
Waterworld has CGI water? Really? More

Posted by Osric on Thursday November 14, 2013, 18:09

16 You made some mistakes....
Before Wrath of Khan, Westworld used Raster Graphics to represent Yule Brenner's Gunslingers point of view as a sequence. Basic yes.. but still a CGI sequence before it. Young Sherlock Holmes wasn't the first fully CGI character. Its the first Photorealistic one. Looker in 1981 had a fully CGI character model 'Cindy'. The Matrix didn't invent Bullet time. The technique was in use long before it. Heck, the 1966 Speed Racer anime used it a lot, Rolling Stones music video 'Like a Rolling Stone used it too and then a 1996 Smirnoff comerial feature slow motion bullet dodging. The Phantom Menace in 1999 used CGI to create massive crowd scenes long before Gladiator. Pod Races anyone? Then for realistic CGI water? Terrible as it was, Waterworld in 95 beat Life of Pi to doing that. More

Posted by GrizBe on Thursday November 14, 2013, 17:34

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