- 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
Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects Hardcover – 7 Jun 1992
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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.
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 [...]
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!
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