In the days before CGI, you could tell something amazing was going to happen by the change in the grain.
April 29, 2012 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of the craziest, weirdest, most wonderful uses of optical printing effects in movies. Whether Hong Kong action flick or European fantasy movie, what are the most stunning or bizarre uses of the optical printing process that you've seen on screen?
posted by eschatfische to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I guess it's more classic than crazy or weird but I always thought Norman McLaren's Pas De Deux was very trippy.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:41 PM on April 29, 2012

Tarsem's The Fall has many wonderful effects, none of which use CGI. The transition from a butterfly to a butterfly shaped island at the end of this clip is my favorite.
posted by The Deej at 8:49 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read up on Slit-Scan.
posted by gregr at 9:35 PM on April 29, 2012

A great example of slit-scan can be found in the classic Doctor Who intros for the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:11 AM on April 30, 2012

This isn't particularly crazy, but I just saw Citizen Kane with the Roger Ebert commentary track. Even though I'd studied it in a class, I'd had no idea about how much optical printing was used. The film is filled with great examples, which Ebert walks viewers through beautifully.
posted by Madamina at 6:13 AM on April 30, 2012

The movie 2001 has a few masterpieces of slit-scan visuals by Douglas Trumbull to create the visual look of Jupiter and the "Stargate" sequence at the end. Additionally, because the plot initially called for the ship Discovery to pass Jupiter and meet the Monolith at Saturn, Trumbull created loads of Saturn visuals which he recycled into the fantastic Bruce Dern movie "Silent Running" which he (Trumbull) also directed. Both movies are visual masterpieces, and both have their places of honor in the SF Cinematic genre, perhaps for different reasons, but just so.

Additionally, Trumbull did the visual interludes between live action sequences in the recent Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," which I have not seen, so I can't comment on.

I also second "The Fall" by Tarsem-- that he did such things without CGI really beggars the imagination (the self-writing tattoo map scene, e.g.). Tarsem also directed The Cell (Jay-lo enters the dreams of a mad killer) and probably used a lot of the same effects-- he did use some of the same exterior settings. He also directed the current Snow White movie, but i'm sure CGI was used.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:27 PM on April 30, 2012

Response by poster: Well, thanks for all your suggestions, everyone.

Let's talk about THE FALL for a second, though. I love THE FALL. I think it's wondrous and beautiful. It's an incredible work. The thing is, despite Tarsem's assertion that there's no CGI in THE FALL, it's clearly not a film that has stayed completely in the analog domain, and I'd be shocked if it contained any special effects created with optical printing (apart from possibly the brief stop-motion sequence near the end). Put bluntly - in the credits, the film boasts a number of digital compositors and colorists, and they just wouldn't be there if the film wasn't manipulated digitally. Tarsem himself later clarified that while he didn't use CGI for the big things - locations, characters, costumes - CGI, or more likely, digital compositing, was in fact used to clean up shots.

Think of it this way. A rock band can boast that they're not an electronic group because they don't perform using synthesizers or drum machines, but still record in a studio that uses digital recording, editing and effects, and release their album on CD and MP3 - they can even do it without being hypocrites!. When you see Tarsem's transition from the butterfly to the island, it's unlikely that his statement of that there's no CGI means that he used exclusively analog technologies to create that shot - most likely, it means that while it's a picture of a real butterfly transitioning to a picture of a real island, there's still a computer blending the two shots together.

THE FALL's awesome, and the above shouldn't in any way detract from it's magic. But for the sake of this question, I'm really looking for analog optical printing effects.
posted by eschatfische at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2012

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