History of Visual Effects - Miniatures

The use of miniatures in film has been around for a significantly long time. Ever since the early days of film, model makers have been used to create stunning visual landscapes that are too large and expansive to be created at full size.

Filming miniatures also involves some tricky camera work as well. Usually, the models are filmed at high speed because any of the slightest movements in the model would ruin the illusion at regular speeds. By filming at a high speed, then playing the film back at a regular speed, the movement and motion of objects look more true to life.

Another consideration for filming miniatures is to have an accurate depth of field. In order to have the entire scene in focus, a very small aperture setting must be used on the camera. This allows the least amount of light to be exposed to the film at a time. In order to compensate for the reduced amount of light, extra lights must be used in filming.

You would think that a number of movies today use only CG for their work, but you'd be wrong. Some of the most successful movies today that use models for their shots are the Lord of the Rings films, the rocket in Apollo 13, the tumbler in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the latest remake of the James Bond film Casino Royale, and even the Star Wars prequel trilogy. It is often quicker and less costly to develop a physical model sometimes than to create it in the computer.

This Movie Magic television episode, although sixteen years old, showcases some films that have successfully used models for their films:

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