Hugo Award-winner Ron Miller offers a little history and a little "how-to" in this reasonably approached and readable introduction to cinematic special effects. Defining special effects as "illusions to fool audiences," he gives a brief nod to the long history of stage tricks before moving on to early cinema history. Double exposures, stop motion, miniaturizationall were there in the films of Melies and other early pioneers. But it is fun to see the incremental expansions Hollywood made through specialists like Willis O'Brien (King Kong) and George Pal, all the way up to George Lucas' Star Wars and the more recent Lord of the Rings films. The second part of the book addresses recent uses of the same old tricks through more technical explanations. Who knew that because of its physical properties, water cannot be miniaturized? The schemes to get around this problem are fascinating. Fascinating, too, is the section on matte painting, whether by hand or digitalizednot to mention the discussions on optical effects and makeup effects. In short, this is a useful, pretty good book even before the back matter of glossary, further reading, web sites, and index rounds it out. Middle and upper school libraries would do well to stock it for all those young filmmakers in process, while science classes could have a field day exploring the theories behind the tricks. 2006, Twenty-First Century Books, Ages 10 up.
Whether hurrying to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on the big screen, watching the Disney channel, or gyrating to the latest Mariah Carey video online, students live for media and the visual gymnastics so prevalent today. Miller's volume capitalizes on that interest in wonderfully engaging ways. The book is divided into two sections, history and how. Although only an introduction, the book explains the praxinoscope, double exposure, and Georges Melies, a nineteenth century magician and pioneer trick photographer. Readers might be most interested in recent strides in digital effects. Examples and visuals from contemporary films, such as the Star Wars series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Spiderman, make the book timely and exciting. From mechanical effects to miniatures to makeup, all kinds of effects are explained and beautifully illustrated. Sketches and photos alone will draw in those who are reluctant or science phobic. Scattered throughout the book are experiments that readers might try to simulate certain effects on a small scale, such as devising a flip book or making a traveling matte. Career advice, a glossary, additional readings, and Web sites add to the book's appeal. Middle-grade science and computer classes might use the book to capture young minds and imaginations in the exciting ways movies do. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Twenty-First Century, 128p.; Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts. Further Reading. Chronology., PLB . Ages 11 to 15.
Patti Sylvester Spencer
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-The history and techniques of film, from the beginning of cinema to the current digital era, are explained. The first section gives a sense of how the movies have always depended on trick effects, and how imaginative people have found ways to create believable effects on screen. The book introduces the work of such pioneers as Georges M li s and stop-motion animators Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen. The second section examines how various types of effects are actually created and does a reasonable job of communicating technical information through text and numerous diagrams. While the book is nicely designed, with black-and-white and color photos from well-known movies set against bright blue or green backgrounds, there are some glaring mistakes; e.g., Gromit of Wallace and Gromit fame is incorrectly spelled "Grommet." The list of the winners of the "Academy Award for Special Effects" (through 2004) is a "who's who" of the last several decades, although one could quibble that the official name of the award is "Achievement in Visual Effects." A color image from The Lord of the Rings on the cover is sure to attract attention.-Tim Wadham, Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.