Blog Directory CineVerse: FX expert spills trade secrets

FX expert spills trade secrets

Thursday, March 4, 2010

by Erik J. Martin

If you love special effects-laden flicks like "Avatar," then you owe a tip of your cap to the craftsmen who put the technique into the pyrotechnics, the experts who slather the latex and K-Y Jelly onto countless creatures and props, and the technicians who help suspend your disbelief with amazing cinematic sleights of hand.

One of those pros is Mat Beck, who has discovered the secret to special effects suc­cess: It's called the "ooog factor." Never heard of it? You've certainly experienced it if you've seen such movies as “Spider-Man 2,” “The Spirit,” “Into the Wild,” “The Aviator,” “Titanic,” and “True Lies,” for all of which Beck served as visual effects producer/supervisor.

According to Beck, the “ooog factor” is what makes viewers say, 'Wow, how are they gonna get out of that?’” while watching a movie.

The key to Beck's FX success, he told me during an interview a few years back, is a tenacious attitude "and a willingness to put up with long moments of pain for shorter moments of pleasure,” he told me. “Making a TV show or a movie is like going to war. To win, you have to be in it until the end. You have to know all the rules and know when to break them."

A good visual effects supervisor, Beck continued, has a background in computers, photography and filmmaking and is "willing to contribute to the look and emotional impact of the product."

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Beck says his life changed forever after seeing “Star Wars” as an impression­able teen. "I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life," he recalled.

Now, instead of simply admiring the talents of special ­effects masters like “Star Wars” pro John Dykstra and “2001: A Space Odyssey's” Douglas Trumbull, Beck is out there on the same playing field with his own company, Light Matters/Pixel Envy.

"Pulling off a visu­al effect successfully requires a combination of very careful planning and preparation and a willingness to throw it out and make up something totally dif­ferent and new," Beck added. "It's like any other kind of magic, in that it's not really magic-it just appears that way because you can't see the levers behind there."

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