Science of the Movies: You Too Can Blow Up the Death Star

By Melissa Lafsky | May 21, 2009 12:00 pm

ScienceofMoviesWhat’s not to like about watching mega-geeks create  effects for the coolest movies on earth? Very little—which leads one to wonder why producers didn’t think of it before. Oh wait…they did.

But there’s plenty of room for a condensed run-through of all the latest technology, from motion capture to the ever-ubiquitous CGI. Which is reason enough to like the Science Channel’s Science of the Movies series,  premiering Tuesday, May 26. Hosted by AchieveNerdvana.com blogger and Geekscape columnist Nar Williams, it’s six episodes on the behind-the-scenes geekosity that’s responsible for everything from Terminator 3 to The Fast and the Furious to Dexter to, yes, Star Wars.

Of course, take away all the blockbuster jargon and Hollywood sheen, and what you’re really watching is a tour through the ranks of ironic T-shirted, scraggly-facial-haired dudes that create the world’s biggest movies. Williams hobnobs with the best and baddest, from John Dykstra (yup, the guy who blew up the Death Star) to the Strause brothers, whose visual effects shop, Hydraulx, dominates the CGI market (300, anyone?).

The other stars of the show are the gizmos, including the Dykstraflex—the motion control rig that carried us through those crevices during Luke’s assault on the main reactor—and Milo, the most popular motion control system on the market, known for creating the spider-sense scene that actually made us believe Toby McGuire could have superhuman powers.

Future episodes cover everything from the flying suit in Iron Man to the miniatures in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian to Jim Henson’s Digital Puppetry Studio.

As for Williams, it’s his big TV debut, and his eagerness to please oozes through every scene. Not that his job is easy: Hosting this sort of thing involves walking that fine line between Adam Savage and Ryan Seacrest. Wind up on the wrong end, and you’ll be stuck fleeing Gary Busey at awards shows. But Williams’s mildly self-promoting cheek doesn’t cancel out the pleasure of watching a Jesus-lookalike in a “Fear the Walken” T-shirt control a 1,200-pound camera racing towards an actor’s head. It’s riveting stuff for anyone who worships at the altar of gollums and Persian battles and exploding planets. Which includes all of us.

Image: The Science Channel

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Animation, Movies
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