Communication and Culture | New Media: Topic: History and Theory of Special Effects
C337 | 0150 | R. Rehak


Special effects are the lifeblood of visual media. Since the dawn of
cinema – and even before – magical images of nonexistent places,
peoples, and events have astounded our eyes, stretched our
imaginations, and plundered our wallets. This course both celebrates
and interrogates special effects by delving into their technologies
and technicians, their aesthetics and economics. From matte paintings,
monster make-up, and miniatures to motion control, CGI, and immersive
virtual realities, we will consider special effects across media
forms, including film, television, the Internet, and video games. We’
ll look at artists such as Harryhausen and Trumbull; companies like
ILM, Digital Domain, and Pixar; filmmakers Zemeckis, Cameron, and
Lucas; the emergence of Hollywood blockbusters; and the culture of
fans whose homebrew FX, created and circulated with personal
computers, serve as professional calling cards to an eager empire of
the spectacle. Alongside our historical and industrial analysis, we’ll
read critical media theory, writings on cinematic realism and
formalism, and studies of the digital revolution. At weekly screenings
we’ll view feature-length films, TV episodes, web animations, effects
documentaries, DVD commentaries, and setpieces drawn from more than a
century of fantastic media. Course work will include a short research
project, in-class presentations, and field trips.