On-screen, everything looks picture perfect. From close-up shots to elaborate fight scenes, it seems there’s no room for error in our all-time favorite movies. And although it’s true, that doesn’t mean it’s a given.
In fact, many A-list filmmakers have been putting all their best effort, ingenuity, and talent into coming up with something as good as the iconic rooftop scene from The Matrix.
So this time, Bored Panda has compiled a list of the most incredible behind-the-scenes photographs that reveal all the big and small cinematographic tricks. Get your popcorn ready, we’re about to find out how on earth do they do this!
The Phantom Menace (1999)
Model maker Michael Lynch created this miniature set for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. To fill the stands, 450,000 Q-tips were cut, painted and inserted into a mesh. By blowing fans from underneath the model stands, the Q-tips appeared as a live crowd moving around in their seats
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
When you hear someone talking about visual effects, movies like Star Wars, Blade Runner, or Jurassic Park often come to your mind. But VFX aficionados often find their passion not exactly in the entire movies (like film critics), but rather in particular shots that blow their minds in their complexity.
A great example of one is the mirror shot in Robert Zemeckis’ film Contact from 1997, where young Ellie races to a medicine cabinet, with the camera right in front of her face. As she finally comes upstairs, the viewers realize we have been watching her reflection in the mirror.
According to visual effects and animation journalist Ian Failes, this scene embodies all that good VFX should have. “Not only is it a shot considered a milestone in invisible and seamless visual effects, it is a scene that even VFX pros regularly admit they have no idea how it was pulled off.”
Jurassic World (2015)
The VFX Supervisor Ken Ralston, who worked on the mirror shot in Contact, said that initially, the mirror shot wasn’t going to be that at all.
“One of the things that we were starting to pursue was a very, very early version of what is now called ‘bullet time,’ shooting something with stills and using those, like in The Matrix [which came out in 1999]. At the time, we were looking at The Rolling Stones' music video that had been done,” he told animation journalist Ian Failes in the interview.
Grant Imahara (RIP) and Tory Belleci from Mythbusters working on Trade Federation battleship from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
The Godfather (1972)
Fast forward to today, and people are still mesmerized by the scene without a clue of how the team pulled it off. But when it comes to visual effects, Ralston believes that it all comes down to being presented in a simple way. “The beauty of it is, anywhere else, there’d be cutaways, of course, to show what you need to know.”
A shot like that one, according to Ralston, “just gotta be right or it’s not going to work.” “You have to be grounded somehow in a movie, or believing in what you’re seeing, or it just doesn’t mean anything.”
Pulp Fiction (1994)
What was inside the glowing briefcase in pulp fiction
Baby Driver (2017)
How the car was driven in Baby Driver when the actors were busy acting inside
Essentially, visual effects have allowed filmmakers to transcend the limits of the screen and create impossible worlds. Sometimes it’s motion-capture footage blended with hand animation as in The Dawn Of Apes (2014).
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Spider-Man, War Machine, and Hulk behind the scenes Avengers: Endgame
Other times, it takes never-before-used solutions to come up with something very creative, like the iconic bullet shot in The Matrix where Neo dodges a bullet. This frozen shot was executed by the VFX Supervisor John Gaeta, who worked with the directors and cinematographer to place 122 still cameras around Keanu Reeves before triggering them one by one
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Knives Out (2019)
In Knives Out, Matt Mania (Key Grip) cleverly sculpted mattes to reshape the lighting equipment into scenery you'd realistically expect to see reflected in the glasses.
.Another iconic VFX shot from The Matrix is the code onscreen, which hadn’t been done before. Gaeta’s idea was to give the audience an impression of what it’d be like to think in code. The team surely succeeded in doing so by making some of the most memorable visual effects ever shown on screen.