The Special Effects Evolution of Disaster Movies | NowThis Nerd

Hey everyone, I’m Dev and I’m bizarrely excited to see ‘Geostorm’ And not just because I think it’s hilarious whenever Gerard “The Most Scottish Man Since Sean Connery” Butler attempts an American Accent

Sorry about that I literally had to fly in from outer space It’s got every natural disaster you could possibly want, right there in one film It’s like if they all teamed up ‘Avengers’ style to mess up Earth Probably New York, though

It’s actually got me thinking about how special effects have grown to portray our planet going haywire So let’s take a look at The Evolution of Effects in Disaster Movies, starting with Tidal Waves There were earlier examples of cinematic fires and floods, But a 1933 film called Deluge was the first to solidify disaster movies as their own genre It’s about a tidal wave that wipes out New York City… of course It’s actually very first time the Big Apple was annihilated on film They created a scale model of Manhattan on a soundstage, With little skyscrapers made out of thin plaster

They were built on rollers so they’d crumble in sequence Then the set was flooded to simulate a massive tsunami It was shot at high speed and played back at the normal frame rate, giving the illusion of a full scale wave drowning the city Couple that with some ahead of its time matte work, and you’ve got a disaster that’s damn impressive for the period Critics at the time weren’t sold, though

One reviewer grumbled that “the destruction of skyscrapers is never particularly real, and the rushing waters seem strangely out of focus at times” Screw that guy, by the way, it looks amazing It's fine for 1933 It's so good Water hasn't changed in a hundred years

It's water! For 1933, he’s pretty picky But ‘Deluge’ was hugely influential, And it established tropes that disaster movies still use today ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ even gives a direct shout-out to ‘Deluge,’ with a similar shot of Lady Liberty 'The Poseidon Adventure' helped kick off the big disaster film revival in the ‘70s It’s most famous effects scene involved an ocean liner getting capsized by a huge tidal wave

The crew spent $35,000 on a 21-foot scale model weighing several tons It was rigged with lights and attached to an underwater mount that controlled the ship as it flipped over The model was placed in a massive 32-foot tank, and dumped with 2,400 gallons of water to simulate a freakish wave The 2006 ‘Poseidon’ remake relied on CGI to depict the tsunami blasting the ship And honestly, the CG Poseidon is just as impressive as its practical ‘70s counterpart It actually held a Guinness World Record for the most detailed CG model ever used in a film, with over 180,000 individual objects depicted on the ship

Modern scenes of tsunamis have become a lot easier to create, thank to advancements in CGI Films like ‘2012’ have drastically increased the scale of disaster, With CGI so complex that it takes up to five days to render just a single frame I would die These effects can be beautiful, But somehow they’re less impressive than some scale models and truckloads of water If you want a good example of modern day miniature work, Check out a movie called ‘The Impossible’ Naomi Watts and Tom Holland had to spend five weeks submerged in a giant tank, Because director J

A Bayona wanted to use real water to make his story more authentic Let’s dry off with a look at cinematic Tornadoes These days, they’re easy to pull off with CGI Geostorm has like, 12 just in the trailer

But in the days of 'The Wizard of Oz,' It was a lot more complicated It's a twister! It's a twister! The original plan was to build the tornado as a 35-foot tall rubber cone, But it just kind of hung there like… a large rubber cone So, despite costing $8,000 in 1938 money, they tore it down and tried again Inspired by those little airport windsock things, effects coordinator Arnold Gillespie created a new cyclone out of muslin cloth He hung it from a steel gantry above the stage, and sprayed powdery dust into the top and bottom to create a blurry cloud effect

Using rear projection, they combined the tornado footage with shots of Judy Garland getting blasted by a wind machine The whole scene cost well over $12,000, which is a small price to pay for creating one of the most iconic scenes in movie history Let’s jump forward to 1996’s 'Twister' The finger of God ILM pulled off some pretty convincing cyclones, for the early days of CGI Is there an F5? Impressive, sure, but come at me when you can make a photorealistic Egyptian monster man

To capture the dust and debris that makes up a twister cloud, ILM used a computer to simulate 10 million complex particles But beyond the cyclones themselves, the digital effects don’t hold up well at all Like, that infamous flying cow is painful to look at today They used a zebra model from ‘Jumanji’ as a placeholder, and honestly, they should have just kept it The CGI was supplemented by a lot of practical effects

On location, the crew used a jet engine on the back of a 16-wheeler truck to blow debris at the cast Unfortunately, most of them got eye infections as a result I got an eye infection, you son of a bitch! Piece of shit gave me an eye infection! And that wasn't the only danger on set The suck zone Bill Paxton was blinded by the super bright lights needed to expose daytime shots to make the sky look dark and cloudy And one of the hydraulic houses collapsed… with the DP still inside

It'll relocate your house fairly efficiently Somehow I doubt the ‘Sharknado’ people are taking those kinda lumps Let’s finish up with a look at Earthquakes 1936’s ‘San Francisco’ is set during the real-life quake from 1906 The crew built elaborate sets on hydraulic lifts that shook the rooms and knocked the cast around

For exteriors, they hid platforms beneath their backlot streets and pulled them apart with cables And thanks to the editing of montage pioneer Slavko Vorkapich, the scene is still pretty intense Jumping forward to 1974, the movie 'Earthquake' Actually used the same techniques for the most part The crew used more miniatures and matte paintings, And developed a unique “shaker mount’ that could safely rock the camera from side-to-side But the big innovation of ‘Earthquake’ was a new gimmick called “Sensurround

” You feel it, as well as see it in Sensurround! You'll be as close to experiencing a real earthquake as you possibly can! Basically, they were giant subwoofers installed in theaters that pumped out 120 decibel bass signals You couldn’t hear it, but you could definitely feel all of it It simulated the effects of an earthquake a little too well, though Mann’s Chinese Theatre had to install a safety net to catch all the pieces of plaster falling from the ceiling, And Chicago more-or-less outlawed it entirely This was 4DX before 4DX

'San Andreas' is a great example of how CG is still built on a complex foundation of practical effects Purely digital shots like the Golden Gate Bridge collapse are impressive in their own right And even without the digital dust and rubble, There’s still a whole lot of real people getting blasted with debris, yanked by cables, and otherwise enduring plenty of crap Just to entertain you! Will ‘Geostorm’ win a bunch of Oscars and usher in a new golden age of cinema? Probably not But it still looks like a good time, And along with some awesome effects, That’s really all that matters

Thanks for watching, guys! What’s your favorite kind of disaster movie? ` Let us know in the comments, And as always, please subscribe

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