Practical effects

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213ardj

Jr Member
Hello, I'm 13 and one thing i'm thinking about for a career later on in life is a practical effects person. So, I was wondering what type of education and background I would need to get into a place like ILM. I've researched a little bit but all I can find in effects is animation. Yes I know I am still very young and my tastes could very well change but, in case they don't this is really what I want to do. Also what are some easy and cheap practical effects I could do at home without blowing up anything?
 

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reaton89

Active Member
Hello, I'm 13 and one thing i'm thinking about for a career later on in life is a practical effects person. So, I was wondering what type of education and background I would need to get into a place like ILM. I've researched a little bit but all I can find in effects is animation. Yes I know I am still very young and my tastes could very well change but, in case they don't this is really what I want to do. Also what are some easy and cheap practical effects I could do at home without blowing up anything?
I think the top 3 effects schools/programs are Dick Smith, Stan Winston, and Tom Savini. Some colleges have programs, but you're probably going to have to wait a few years before considering any of them. It's great that you're thinking about it now though!

Sadly, practical effects are a fading art because of the crazy-fast progress in technology. It's cheaper and faster to make a big dinosaur, or a destroyed city, on a computer than it is to build it for real. With that said, there are still a lot of us who prefer the real stuff (and always will) because it's more convincing when it's done right. So it's not necessarily a bad thing that less people are doing practical effects, in favor of digital animation. But if I were your age again, I'd start learning the best of both worlds, because that's where the industry has been going for a while- a mixture of practical and animation.

It's just my opinion, but I think you should start with sculpture. Refine your skills, and spend time making different things, even if you want to blow them up. Use your imagination, but also look at pictures of things that exist in the real world. Anatomy is key, whether you're making a person, animal, creature, prop, etc. Play with different lighting. Cast shadows from all directions to see where changes are needed. Focus on the overall shape, smooth it out, and then try different texturing methods. The more techniques you try, the more you'll learn what works best for you. Eventually, you can research molding, casting, painting, etc. But first you want to have something worth making.

The internet can be your best teacher, if you know what you're looking for. Sites like this, and youtube are great for info. It's limitless. Consider taking all the art classes you can in school. You seem like a sharp kid. If you're passionate about it and practice enough, you can work at ILM or anywhere else. Just start making some stuff, try to have fun, and don't get discouraged. Trial and error is the only way to get better. :)

-Ryan
 
Last edited:

Mr Mold Maker

Sr Member
I think you may have confused your terms a little. ILM doesn't do practical effects, they do visual effects.

Practical effects, generally speaking, refers to real life effects or creations on set, that can be interacted with. The shark in Jaws, for example, was a practical effect.

Visual effects are, again.. generally speaking, computer generated imagery. The sharks in Sharknado for example, were visual effects.

That being said, the best thing you can do, practical or visual, is start creating.

I started at 13 or 14 myself. Completely self taught. The stuff I made back then was absolutely terrible...well because I was a beginner! I hated each and every thing I did because I didn't think it was good enough. Chances are, you'll feel like this too. Never let that feeling discourage you, let it motivate you to be the best you can be. Never stop creating and the talent will follow you.

If you put in the time and effort, and most importantly never stop learning, it will open the door to any shop you want.
 

213ardj

Jr Member
I think the top 3 effects schools/programs are Dick Smith, Stan Winston, and Tom Savini. Some colleges have programs, but you're probably going to have to wait a few years before considering any of them. It's great that you're thinking about it now though!

Sadly, practical effects are a fading art because of the crazy-fast progress in technology. It's cheaper and faster to make a big dinosaur, or a destroyed city, on a computer than it is to build it for real. With that said, there are still a lot of us who prefer the real stuff (and always will) because it's more convincing when it's done right. So it's not necessarily a bad thing that less people are doing practical effects, in favor of digital animation. But if I were your age again, I'd start learning the best of both worlds, because that's where the industry has been going for a while- a mixture of practical and animation.

It's just my opinion, but I think you should start with sculpture. Refine your skills, and spend time making different things, even if you want to blow them up. Use your imagination, but also look at pictures of things that exist in the real world. Anatomy is key, whether you're making a person, animal, creature, prop, etc. Play with different lighting. Cast shadows from all directions to see where changes are needed. Focus on the overall shape, smooth it out, and then try different texturing methods. The more techniques you try, the more you'll learn what works best for you. Eventually, you can research molding, casting, painting, etc. But first you want to have something worth making.

The internet can be your best teacher, if you know what you're looking for. Sites like this, and youtube are great for info. It's limitless. Consider taking all the art classes you can in school. You seem like a sharp kid. If you're passionate about it and practice enough, you can work at ILM or anywhere else. Just start making some stuff, try to have fun, and don't get discouraged. Trial and error is the only way to get better. :)

-Ryan
Thanks man it means alot.

- - - Updated - - -


I think you may have confused your terms a little. ILM doesn't do practical effects, they do visual effects.

Practical effects, generally speaking, refers to real life effects or creations on set, that can be interacted with. The shark in Jaws, for example, was a practical effect.

Visual effects are, again.. generally speaking, computer generated imagery. The sharks in Sharknado for example, were visual effects.


That being said, the best thing you can do, practical or visual, is start creating.

I started at 13 or 14 myself. Completely self taught. The stuff I made back then was absolutely terrible...well because I was a beginner! I hated each and every thing I did because I didn't think it was good enough. Chances are, you'll feel like this too. Never let that feeling discourage you, let it motivate you to be the best you can be. Never stop creating and the talent will follow you.

If you put in the time and effort, and most importantly never stop learning, it will open the door to any shop you want.
Awesome I really appreciate your guys support.
 

detenten

Active Member
Sculpting. Learn sculpting. At 13 you can probably find some neat local clubs or summer camps to focus on figure sculpting.
I'm only a hobbyist but I wish I had more training in sculpting!!!

Carpentry probably also pretty useful, so if your school offers woodshop get into that!

Pick up an Arduino board... because. Some basic coding to program that will go a long way in animatronics.

I know there are magnet high schools you might want to look into-- for instance, NOCCA here in New Orleans.

Mostly get out there and "network." Do internships-- paid if you can, (unfortunately) unpaid if you can. Find local organizations you can participate in-- film sets, theaters, haunted houses in particular. Practical effects will lend itself to hands-on experience, and the more people you meet, talk to, and make friends with will bolster your chances in the job market a lot more than formal education in the craft would alone (which pretty much goes for any industry, really...).

Good luck!
 

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213ardj

Jr Member
Sculpting. Learn sculpting. At 13 you can probably find some neat local clubs or summer camps to focus on figure sculpting.
I'm only a hobbyist but I wish I had more training in sculpting!!!

Carpentry probably also pretty useful, so if your school offers woodshop get into that!

Pick up an Arduino board... because. Some basic coding to program that will go a long way in animatronics.


I know there are magnet high schools you might want to look into-- for instance, NOCCA here in New Orleans.

Mostly get out there and "network." Do internships-- paid if you can, (unfortunately) unpaid if you can. Find local organizations you can participate in-- film sets, theaters, haunted houses in particular. Practical effects will lend itself to hands-on experience, and the more people you meet, talk to, and make friends with will bolster your chances in the job market a lot more than formal education in the craft would alone (which pretty much goes for any industry, really...).

Good luck!
Cool thanks.
 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
Another prefered methode to learn is to copy some existing works ... try to figure out how the lightening was done, what angle and how they build something to make it believable ... that's the key ... don't always make it real make it believable ... so you could suffice with a half build model but through the lens of the camera it appears complete for whatever is needed in the scene. Another fun project could be to paint on a piece of glass put between the camera and the background ... then paint i.e. a castle or any large object that would be impossible to build for real on a set ... it's called matt-painting ... in today's movies it's mostly been done digitally, but like I said it's a fun practical effect to try out and achieve a succesful shot. Search on youtube for fx-tests and just try to copy them. I had to learn most that I know from books with lots of static pictures such as cinefex : http://www.cinefex.com/ still a leading magazine :)

Here's another thread with some more tips that I just found : http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=230450

Chaim
 

213ardj

Jr Member
Another prefered methode to learn is to copy some existing works ... try to figure out how the lightening was done, what angle and how they build something to make it believable ... that's the key ... don't always make it real make it believable ... so you could suffice with a half build model but through the lens of the camera it appears complete for whatever is needed in the scene. Another fun project could be to paint on a piece of glass put between the camera and the background ... then paint i.e. a castle or any large object that would be impossible to build for real on a set ... it's called matt-painting ... in today's movies it's mostly been done digitally, but like I said it's a fun practical effect to try out and achieve a succesful shot. Search on youtube for fx-tests and just try to copy them. I had to learn most that I know from books with lots of static pictures such as cinefex : http://www.cinefex.com/ still a leading magazine :)

Here's another thread with some more tips that I just found : http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=230450

Chaim
Yea I bought a mad max fury road issue of cinefix and I love it thanks
 

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