The amount of work that goes into a Hollywood production cannot be overstated. These days, it is usually up to a VFX artist studio to finish off what the director had in mind. What happens when you take modern VFX artists and ask them to analyze how old-school special effect artists worked? Praise!
In this very interesting and entertaining video from The Corridor Crew, the three VFX (visual effects) artists Niko, Clint, and Wren sit down to react to some of the most memorable CGI moments from the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Most of the visual effects from the original "Star Wars" trilogy were made with analog technology, which is “pure magic” to most modern VFX artists. All the compositing of space ships flying through meteor showers, death stars blowing up, battles in space, and lightsaber battles were done with film using actual chemical processes. The lightsaber effects were done in different ways dependent on the technological advances back when the original movies were made. One way to make the lightsabers glow was to cut a hole in the film where the actors held their stand-in lightsabers and shine a light through that hole frame by frame; double-exposing the original film.
Another effect the three VFX artists explain is how the original VFX artists had to work with complicated masking on top of the film to “key out” specific elements in the scene. In that way, the original VFX artists could project an X-Wing space ship onto a background full of stars without making a double exposure. Working with a film like this is a tremendously complicated process, as you need to know exactly how the final product is supposed to look before you start filming.
Be sure to check out the video above, where they also explain many other effects and scenes, such as the opening battle on the ice planet Hoth, how painted backgrounds were used to “fake” an effect, and stop motion was used to move the giant AT-AT’s. Let me hear your thoughts down in the comments.