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Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
WARNER BROS.//DISNEY//SEARCHLIGHT

Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small

I developed a love for cinema at a very young age and I remember watching films in a particular fashion. Unlike most kids at that age who would only appreciate the spectacle on a surface level, I was predominantly invested in the nitty-gritty details of how every element was made. Since I was a kid, I would always make it a point to visit film sets of my favorite films whenever I traveled around the world.

When Harry Potter graced the silver screens in 2001, I was so awestruck by the enchanting world that I promised myself that I would walk the halls of Hogwarts someday. To my surprise, the massive castle that mesmerized me all those years was actually just a miniature scale model. After entering the entertainment industry, I was exposed to the harsh reality that most of the places and things that captivated me as a kid were just perfectly made illusions and special effects brilliantly done by skillful artists in the business.

Small But Mighty

Special effects are no stranger to Hollywood. Its history could be traced back to the early 1900s when Georges Méliès, the father of special effects, used techniques such as stop-action, double exposure, split screens, and miniatures in his film entitled A Trip to the Moon (1902).

Miniature effect is a type of special effect that is primarily used for films and TV series to make identical replicas of buildings, vehicles, animals, places, and things as well as to create made-up worlds using scale models. Hollywood has adapted this method because it is more practical, inexpensive, less time-consuming, and complex than building life-like objects or using advanced special effects such as Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI). Most importantly, the use of old-school effects such as miniatures is widely more valued by audiences as it gives a more realistic impression.

The use of old-school effects such as miniatures is widely more valued by audiences as it gives a more realistic impression

“People seem to appreciate the reality of an image that has been captured through the lens of a camera. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for this, but it seems that audience members do have a certain tired feeling towards a lot of VFX. To be honest, it’s probably the fault of the film for the most part — if it’s just not holding you for whatever reason, then you’ll start picking things apart as you watch. The human eye is really good at detecting fakeness and people just don’t seem to really enjoy looking at something that has been presented as reality but isn’t really convincing,” via BBC.

Some of the materials commonly used in building miniatures are solid woods, an epoxy-based resin, acrylic plastic and paint, paper clay, polymer clay, brushes, sculpting tools, nails, super glues. If you notice, these materials are easily affordable and available to purchase in your local arts and crafts store. While these may seem like modest things, it packs a lot of power and versatility in creating monumental and timeless pieces that change the way we experience the world.



Masters of Illusion

Due to the power and effectiveness of CGI, scale models have gradually taken a back seat in the entertainment industry. However, it doesn’t mean that it has been completely snubbed by creatives. In fact, here are award-winning films that have completely used scale models to create some of the most memorable scenes and places in movie-making history:

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Harry Potter

The gigantic monument and spectacle known as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (where we all fancied to go to as kids), was a miniature model designed by British production designer Stuart Craig. It was mostly used for exterior shots and was modeled after the Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle — where they actually filmed scenes such as the Quidditch match. The miniature model is now displayed at Warner Bros. Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios.

Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
WARNER BROS.

Lord of The Rings

Despite most of the elements in the film being created by CGI, the important ones, such as the castle of Minas Tirith, were actually scale models. A New Zealand company, Weta, was responsible for this remarkable 23-feet tall “bigature” (a wordplay on miniature) which took approximately 1000 hours to make.

Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
WARNER BROS.

Star Wars

As one of the pioneers of special effects, George Lucas’ company Industrial Light & Magic revolutionized science fiction films. The spaceship, in particular, was made with small and large scale models and was filmed against a blue screen that projected an image of space and a camera was programmed to move around it to give an illusion of the spaceship moving in space.

Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
DISNEY

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This Academy award-winning film by creative genius Wes Anderson, used traditional special effects to bring its decadent world to life. The railway, snow-covered forest, and legendary hotel were all scale models that were designed by Adam Stockhausen as well as Anderson. The director values miniatures over CGI because of their charm and authenticity as he emphasized that audiences are good at recognizing elements that are artificially made, which negatively affects their viewing experience.

Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
SEARCHLIGHT

Inception

Christopher Nolan’s Academy award-winner stunner also utilized the expertise of scale model artists. The team reached out to New Deal to create a 40-feet high, 1/6 scale model of a hospital building affixed to a mountaintop that was skillfully assembled in such a way that was meant to collapse in a matter of seconds for the explosion sequence seen in the film.

Miniatures: 5 Classic Films Who Brought The Impossible To Life By Going Small | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
WARNER BROS.

If there’s any kind of magic that exists in the world, filmmaking is undoubtedly the first thing that comes to mind. The artistry, craft, and ingenuity involved in making impossible worlds come to life are truly extraordinary and captivating. While some of the most advanced technologies are readily available, award-winning filmmakers still opt to use traditional special effects because of the unmatched affordability, flexibility, and authenticity that it adds to the story. Audiences, particularly, have a great eye for detail, and oftentimes, when choosing the best way to elevate the movie experience that has a life-long impact, we must simply go back to the basics.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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