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Celebrating SFX - Eddy Durnan

Tuesday 5 December 2023, by Judy Harris

There’s nothing more special than special effects!

Whether digital or practical, special effects are created by a highly skilled, specialised labour force and have created some of cinema’s most captivating images (that’s why we insist on calling them SPECIAL effects). In support of the effects industry and to celebrate World VFX Day on Dec 8th we spoke with a random collection of people who work in and/or love sfx and asked them to share some of their favourite sequences, starting with visual effects insider Eddy Durnan.

NB: Eddy hasn’t seen a film made before 1989.

1) Star Wars: The Last Jedi - The Holdo Manoeuvre (Dir. Rian Johnson, 2017)
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)

This is a stunning, largely silent scene which is very sad but incredibly beautiful. It’s pretty monochromatic, there’s not much colour and there’s a discrepancy between the rapid motion of light across the screen and the slow motion of the debris. It’s low key yet breathtaking. The effects supervisor said he wanted the collision to cut “like a hot knife through butter”. That’s what’s fascinating about vfx, someone can come up with a concept like that and a team of people can make it happen. It’s bittersweet because while Vice - Admiral Holdo dies, her death gives us this spectacular scene. I guess that’s all that matters really.

2) Terminator 2: Judgement Day – Fire and Ice Scene (Dir. James Cameron, 1991)

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Stan Winston Studio, Fantasy II Film Effects, and 4-Ward Productions.
Additional effects from Pacific Data Images and Video Images.

I love this scene because of how brilliantly the practical and digital effects are integrated. It’s effortless but you can still feel that combination of something virtual and something tangible, though it’s hard to pinpoint how and where that happens. It’s a spectacle in itself but also serves a purpose in the story and I like it when visual effects and plot support each other. I love the gradual metamorphosis of the freezing sequence but the best bit is when the liquid metal starts to take form, it looks incredible, especially the reflections of the fire. Yet the camera work and the composition of the shot mean the spectacle is completely integrated into the scene.

3) Life (Dir. Daniel Espinosa, 2017)

DNEG, Industrial Light & Magic, NVIZIBLE, One of Us, Outpost VFX and Atomic Fiction

This is a hopeful, wonderous opening to what becomes quite a scary film. It’s an immersive scene which gives a visceral feeling of weightlessness and serenity. The camera movement is amazing, it floats you through the space station seamlessly even though it’s actually 17 takes stitched together. At one point you can see earth through the space station window and it just looks so beautiful. It connects the audience to what the characters must be feeling and places you within the film but it also gives you such a strong sense of wonder and awe in a timeless, transcendental way.

Thanks to Eddy Durnan for taking time out of his lunch hour to talk to us. We’re posting conversations about sfx all week in the run up to World VFX Day Dec 8th.

World VFX day is an annual day of recognition in celebration of the vfx industry (and the often invisible labour of vfx workers) started by a collective of visual effects studios. Anyone in or outside the industry are encouraged to take part. Sign up to the ‘World VFX Day’ newsletter for the latest news and events: https://mailchi.mp/651b2a6c2ad9/world-vfx-day

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