Created By: Hello999 on July 16, 2011 Last Edited By: Hello999 on August 10, 2011

Special Effects Switch Up

One effect is done multiple ways to stump the audience

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A trick wherein one special effect is achieved by different techniques in different shots. The intended effect is to stump audience members trying to figure out how the effect was done, as they will be looking for a single technique which could have achieved all the shots.

  • The tea party scene from Mary Poppins is perhaps the Most Triumphant Example of this trope. The techniques used to make the actors appear to float constantly change between shots. Sometimes they're on wires, sometimes they're filmed in front of a sodium vapor screen (a now obsolete alternative to Chroma Key), and sometimes teeter-totters are bobbing them up and down. They even built an upside-down version of the set to do some of the shots.
  • There's a scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier when Kirk is climbing El Capitan and Spock is floating next to him on rocket boots. In the shots where you can see Spock's feet, Leonard Nimoy is being suspended by a pole connecting him to the cliff with the shots angled so that his body hides the pole. When you can see the front of Spock, Leonard Nimoy's feet are attached to a teeter-totter and so his feet are kept out of frame in those shots.
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • July 16, 2011
    PaulA
    • The Day The Earth Stood Still: Gort is presumably a man in a rubber suit, the kind that in a B-movie would have a highly visible zipper, but he's filmed from multiple angles and is apparently seamless. The secret? Multiple suits, each with the highly visible zipper in a different place, so that whichever angle he's being shot from the zipper is on the side furthest from the camera.
  • July 16, 2011
    TonyG
    • In the Lord Of The Rings movies, a combination of Forced Perspective, little people stand-ins and green-screen is used for the scenes where the Hobbits and Dwarves interact with regular-sized characters. They even built special sets that move along with the camera to help hide the force perspective shots, which typically require that the camera stay still.
    • The effects team on Who Framed Roger Rabbit used a variety of different techniques to give the illusion that the Toons are interacting with the live-action actors and props. When the lead weasel approaches Eddie at his office, the gun he's holding is on wires, but on the next scene it's on a mechanical arm. For the chase scene with Benny the Cab, Bob Hoskins was on a go-kart for full shots, sitting on a camera dolly for close-ups, on blue screen when Benny is elevated, and there's a handful of brief shots where Hoskins is animated.
    • Jurassic Park alternates between full-scale animatronic dinosaurs and CGI. One shot of the T-Rex apporaching the stranded van begins with the animatronic head in the foreground, and as soon as it leaves the picture frame it switches to the computer-animated T-Rex walking towards the background.
  • August 8, 2011
    Hello999
  • August 8, 2011
    LeeM
    • Some of the weightless shots in Apollo 13 were actually filmed in a plane that simulates zero-g by diving, but in close-ups the actors are often faking it in the studio.
    • Another The Lord Of The Rings example is where Frodo is standing in a corridor of Bag End and the camera pans over to Gandalf crouching at the other end of the same corridor. A concealed cut hides the fact that we've just gone from the big-scale set to the small one.
  • August 8, 2011
    Premonition45
  • August 8, 2011
    Hello999
    Switching between animatronic and CGI versions of a creature/robot seems to be especially common. The early Harry Potter films did this with the troll (first movie), Fawkes the phoenix (second movie), and Buckbeak (third movie).
  • August 9, 2011
    KJMackley
    For certain shots of the Transformers they actually used a life-size Bumblebee model. The thing was intricately detailed but still wouldn't be convincing in most situations. But in key scenes, such as 'Bee getting frozen by the MIB or strapped to the back of a semi, the prop is what we are actually seeing at times. A similar thing was done with Frenzy.
  • August 9, 2011
    randomsurfer
    "intended effect is to stump audience members trying to figure out how the effect was done..."

    How do we know that that's the intended effect?

    King Kong (1976) used a combination of giant cantelevered arms, a Man In A Rubber Suit, and a full-size Kong used for one failed effect when he's Breaking The Bonds.
  • August 10, 2011
    SquirrelGuy
    In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder version), at least 3 methods are used in the Fizzy Lifting Drinks room, where Grandpa Joe and Charlie are floating in the air. In addition to chroma key and wires, the scene where they bumped into the ceiling used a simple up-and-down platform, or a scissor lift.
  • August 10, 2011
    KJMackley
    I think the trope can do without guessing the exact reasons why they do certain effects. I do think it is less "trying to deceive the audience" and more "what looks good at this angle" or "how can we keep it cost efficient." Especially in the early days CGI was the really expensive option, so they minimized it's use with cheaper alternatives. Bay said the Bumblebee prop already mentioned cost a quarter million dollars but saved them 1.5 million dollars due to careful editing.
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