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Special Effects As A Proffesion?

Discussion in 'Special Effects' started by Traylen, May 15, 2004.

  1. Traylen

    Traylen Member

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    Bay Area, California
    Ok this might not be the right place to ask this question but I'll go for it anyways....

    Ok, so I'm a High School Techie and I do a lot of work for my school as well as various theatres in my area (my days are always full! Woohoo :D 8) ). I've become very interested in Special Effects. When I say that though, I mean more for movie type things then theatre, not just special lighting or anything (yes, I do realize more is done then that, but I was looking at questions asked on this board and they really aren't what I'm looking for). Anyways so my question is.... Does anyone know any good resources that I can look into? Or give me some information on this field of work?

    I've always had a liking for this field, I used (still do sometimes) build models and paint miniatures, I'm also a magician and special effects is what they're all about :wink: !

    So I pretty much want to know about any field of the special effects category. If you know anything that can help please share! :)

    Thanks so much for your time, and I hope I get a response (I’m not sure if I asked the right place, and if I didn’t, does anyone know where I can ask? Like another forum?)

    Thanks again, :)
  2. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    There is stagecraft as a alternative in websites/forums with known FX people, also did you try looking into special effects in doing a web search? I’m not aware of any but there is probably a FX forum or ten at least fan oriented and based that would have some amazingly smart amateurs at least if not experts. Than there is Myth Busters. Perhaps contact one of them guys for advice. Might be a forum based around special effects or monster magazines also. If you collect magazines of that type you might go to their home page given there is not a chat room add somewhere inside.

    After this, special effects in more than lighting is something lots of theater people have experience with. Our props, makeup and other classes share a lot with the movie business. Thurston James as an author has at least two books that might be worth you looking at. Tech people learn a large broad base of knowledge and I believe some of the members here also do pyro, much less other special effects. Also I expect there is a wealth of schools on cinematography with specific focuses on special effects to get training with.

    I swore off pyro after the military thus don’t know much about it anymore. Special effects also as in exploding heads and blood everywhere is at least for me more conventional in application. A tube, a pump and an outlet etc. Pyro verses a balloon that blows in making the explosion would also depend upon the application for the most typical sense of it. Special effects such as the little plant used in Little Shop of Horrors is more just cylinders and pistons etc. for me. No real interest at least on my part beyond musing that if I needed to re-produce such a thing I would first grab one of the sound activated plants and figure out how it works to combine that technology with the various lever and piston activated ones I have helped with in the past in this example.

    As for the forum, there is theater and entertainment tech people here. Never know what someone’s personal background is or what they will know about, but as a forum and out of liability, if pyro is your interest that’s an off board discussion at most. Control booth can’t be discussing things like that, it could be very dangerous for others to attempt without understanding. Stagecraft as I said would have people on a more broad scale in general with answers also as there is more pro people on there and a larger pool of members.

    Hope it helps, feel free to ask non-pyro questions, or to help others with their SX questions, you never know what others here have done before thus what they might be able to help you with even if not their primary focus.
  3. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Eastcoast USA
    Well there are various areas of is going to depend on the area that interests you. Aside from the internet--you can find lots of great info online AND in books. But for effects--which area interests you most is what you have to decide. There is Graphics and digital computer effects & animations, foley and post-prod sound effects, there are make up effects, there is animatronics, creature creations and puppetry, there is pyro effects, there are stunts & live action it will depend on your main interests. A couple ideas off the top of my head, a good idea and how most folks usually get involved in this work for some of the graphics, Set designs and construction effects (like for magicians & movies), FX make up, puppetry and so forth is DO these things as if they were your air to breathe, and to build up a picture portfolio of your progressing works, complete with concept, drafts, sketches, story boards etc..and if you have any friends into film--see if they will hire you to do FX for them. If you should get an interview at a FX shop, you will want to be able to show them some of your work. As a lot is with these kinds of arts--organized school choices is limited tho there is a few out there (for FX Make Up, Tom Savini offers classes and course work in Philly area)...but its up to the individual drive to make themselves a place and find someone to learn from and look for opportunities that will grow your skills. Most folks in film and TV did and would have done this kind of work regardless of life..and lots of times they started and taught themselves techniques from a young age. Read and do as much training for yourself as you can and then apply for an internship to some FX group... Check out schools, get side and grunt work on local shoots and get to know folks and then beg work and show interest and your talents and hope you get lucky. Networking is a key thing in this industry of theater and production and the same goes for Film and TV. Best ideas I can offer at this time off the top of my head... Hope it helps...

  4. egorleski

    egorleski Member

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    Im in a similar boat now. Im in highschool and want to pursue a career in pyro. The studios used to offer good training programs but that was stoppped a while ago. Basicaly do as much as you can, call people, beg people, the worst that can happen is they say no. You never know who knows somebody that knows somebody. I fell into working on a local movie by calling a guy out in california who told me about his friend in chicago and gave me his phone number who just so happened to be working on a movie that was filming 30 min from where i live. Take pictures/video of everything you work on. Design things! I have talked to alot of people and the most important thing is creativity. Realise that profesionals have studios filled with raw materials and greater budgets then you with nothing trying to devise a way to do fog jets and only 20$. Make it work, make it safe, video tape it, and record how you did it. Join local pyrotechnic guilds, join the PGI and attend their convention. Even though an areal shell isn't neccesarly what you are going to be using, the experiance is benificial because there are many similarities. Everything i have heard basicaly says you need to go to california to get schooling. While other places offer classes, the industry is about contacts, and thats where A LOT of contacts are. Very few/no schools offer specific degrees in pyro, but they may have guest speakers come and talk about it once a year or more. Find a flexable program that will for example, let you get a degree in lighting design but set up an internship at a FX house. Ive talked to a bunch and surprisingly few get people hoping to be interns, but are willing to take people who want to on. Best of luck to anyone who seeks a similar profession, and maybe someday see you on set.

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