Course overview

Since the very earliest days of cinema, filmmakers have pushed technological developments in the industry through their desire to put the impossible on screen, giving audiences the opportunity to marvel at seemingly death-defying feats and depictions of sheer otherworldly imagination. Over five weeks we’ll pull back the curtain to make an in-depth study of over a century of special effects creativity in cinema, from the earliest simple trick shots to cutting-edge computer-generated images, from miniature cities, giant apes, animated antics, spaceships, and skeletons to digitally de-aged actors. The course makes use of a wide variety of clips and stills from classic and recent cinema and some overlooked masterpieces.

Course description

The course aims to introduce learners to the long, creative history of cinema special effects, from the earliest rudimentary trick shots to the most up-to-date uses of computer-generated imagery and machine learning, looking at clips from over 100 years of cinema and a large collection of behind-the-scenes images and documentary material.

In Week 1 we’ll examine the very first trick shots and see how early cinema was all about spectacle and novelty. Although these films are sometimes rudimentary, they laid the groundwork for many of the techniques that followed.

Week 2 is all about the art of the matte painter, seamlessly extending sets, creating new backgrounds – and even foregrounds – and sometimes creating whole worlds, with simple brushes and canvas.

We’ll take a visit to Skull Island in Week 3 for a Kong special, revisiting each of the cinematic incarnations of the mighty Eighth Wonder of the World, to see how each movie was – in its day – a pioneering showcase of special effects, from stop-motion to Suitmation, from million-dollar robots to number-crunching pixel power.

Week 4 will take us right to the cutting edge, to look at digital humans from CGI to AI. Making actors younger, and even bringing them back from the dead is an idea full of possibilities and problems. And amazingly, it all starts in the 1970s.

Finally in Week 5 we’ll take a look at special effects in what might be their natural habitat – science fiction films.

No previous knowledge is required, just a love of film.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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