Task 1 – Research on Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen was an American visual effects creator and producer, who pioneered the split screen stop motion animation method known as ‘Dynamation’. This technique allowed, for the first time, stop motion animated models to be incorporated within live action footage. This essentially created a final shot of live action fore/background elements, with the mid-ground displaying the stop motion animation.

Although now very dated compared with current day visual effect capabilities, I think that Harryhausen’s work has a certain unique and classic quality about it which is very visually pleasing. What sets his films apart from others of the era is both the detail and complexity present within the scenes, alongside the fluid, stop-motion animation adopted by the monsters in his films. In The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen used his ‘Dynamation’ technique in the skeleton temple fight scene to have the main character battle what seemed to be a sword wielding skeleton. This fight incorporated interaction between both live action and animated footage in the form of metal swords and shields being struck, and the end result was incredibly realistic. One particular part of this scene that really impressed me was that the live-action scene was visible in front and behind the skeleton during the battle (as was the intention of Dynamation), leading to a vastly more believable shot. This was coupled with the fact that the edges of the animated element were sharp against the backdrop, and attention was paid to the lighting to help it integrate more seamlessly into the scene.

Overall, for his time, Harryhausen’s films were spectacular. Although the methods he used to generate his visual effects were, for the most part, very primitive and needlessly complex, they paved the way for many modern day chroma key and matte-ing techniques, now widely used in all manner of film production.

Research References


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