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Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects Hardcover – 7 Jun 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press (7 Jun. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240801083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240801087
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 1.8 x 28.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,006,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Rain and water effects have always been used by Hollywood to increase production value inexpensively and to accentuate mood and atmosphere. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anybody studying or interested in the world of visual effects must read this book. It contains the basic and advanced principles for creating all the major types of physical effects which are as relevant today as they ever were. If you can think of a visual effect then this book will show you how to produce it. EXCELLENT!
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By A Customer on 24 Dec. 1998
Format: Hardcover
Nothing compares to this book when it comes to special effects, the incredible amount of information is hard to find outside of this book
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By A Customer on 28 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although this is a good book, which I can recommend, it contains some erroneous references in the pyrotechnics section. The (late) author repeatedly and incorrectly refers to the act of setting any device off as 'detonating', where many of the explosives he is talking about 'deflagrate', which is an entirely different phenomenon. Sorry to get technical, but you would expect a book that gets technical with the effects would get it right. It is also said that normal pyrotechic based fuse can be initiated with a blasting machine, which is also nonsense.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x935714a4) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9396cfcc) out of 5 stars Warning on using chemicals in this book. 5 Mar. 2005
By D. F. Curran - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
WARNING MACARTHY'S BOOK GIVES USES FOR CARBON TETRACHLORIDE, DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL--EVEN ONE BEER--WITHIN 24 HOURS, BEFORE OR AFTER, OF USING CARBON TET--THE COMBO HAS A SYNERGISTIC EFFECT THAT CAN KILL YOU!

This is a great special effects book but the author is not an organic chemist and so didn't know this. (Carbon tet used to be very comon in cleaners and was thought safe at one time.) Since the author gives a number of chemical recipes you should be cautious about drinking before, or after, or during the use of any of them.

Otherwise this is a great book. There is very little overlap between this book and Bernard Wilkie's CREATING SPECIAL EFFECTS FOR TV AND VIDEO so you might want to get both.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93a46d68) out of 5 stars Secrets a dated but generous work. 12 April 2008
By Anthony Lealand - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects was in its day without a doubt an excellent work, and still is packed full of very interesting and helpful references.

While CGI has taken over the mainstream special effects, lower budget films are unable to afford the costs of CGI and real special effects are still in demand, and on stage as well in live productions.

The book quite rightly has a very strong emphasis on safety, and the need to thoroughly rehearse what you are going to attempt.

The author, Robert McCarthy is generous in giving away information not only about the special effect but how to interact with the talent using the special effect.

However his chapter on chemical affects is an absolute shocker, with potassium chlorate and sulphur being frequently used in compositions. These two chemicals can ignite with very small amounts of friction.

Mercurous chloride is used in a number of the compositions, and the dangers of mercury salts completely ignored. No one, but no one uses mercury salts for pyrotechnics, because of the toxicity let alone the cost.

In fact I have to wonder if this chapter used works from the 19th century as a reference, when the use of such compositions was commonplace.

The line drawing illustrations are extremely good, however reproductions of actual film scenes of extremely poor quality and it is difficult to see what is happening. Some of the other black-and-white photos which were shot especially for the book are also of poor quality.

The chapter on fireworks is very dated, with little reference to electronic choreographed firing, and much emphasis on hand firing. As well it recommends the use of steel mortars when nearly every jurisdiction in many countries have banned these because of shrapnel issues after deaths.

These deaths have occurred in among other countries, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand, entirely due to steel mortars. This chapter should have been removed from the book as it is not special effects and there are far better books and training on firework shows available.

All in all as the book says in its disclaimer, do not attempt to create any of these effects without proper training experience and professional assistance.

However for operators in the industry, it is an exceptionally good read, and if you only come away with one revelation or interesting observation it is well worthwhile buy.

For the interested auteur, TV and film buff it will be a fascinating read seeing behind the scenes.

I am sure those professionals who read the book, will come away with considerable respect for work that Robert McCarthy did.

Anthony Lealand Firework Professionals Ltd [...]
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93ac6f78) out of 5 stars Great Read for Practical Use or General Interest 24 Jan. 2008
By J Donaldson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is an amazing resource for the budding special effects wizard. Whether you have a desire to go into the field of big Hollywood effects or if you just have a genuine interest in the "how did they do that" side of the effects business, this is a great guide.

In this day and age it is rare to find books that lay out a helpful guide to practical effects. While I have heard that perhaps some of the chemical information is outdated or mis-stated (chemicals being something I think you should always make sure you understand...eg: beware recipes) I still think the book is worth having for its explanation of all sorts of major on-set effects. Great book! Worth getting!
HASH(0x9421c444) out of 5 stars Special Effects Handbook- Put this book in your Library! 14 May 2011
By Eugene P Rizzardi Jr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know Old School Special Effects, or learn how they did a special effect this book should be on your bookshelf. Many of Hollywood's SPX techs have this book in their libraries for reference. This book is very helpful in understanding the principles of Special Effects and as a SPFX tech myself I would say that you should have this book in your shop.
HASH(0x9384669c) out of 5 stars Very interesting book 15 Jan. 2011
By Rich U - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is more about how they did it rather than how can you do it for you next production. Lots of good ideas and pictures, but as other reviews have said, some things are definitely :don't try this at home." But still a great book.
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