No aspect of modern filmmaking has transformed — for good and bad — the way Hollywood makes movies like the growth of special effects. The Magic of Special Effects, a NOVA special from 1984, presents a fascinating snapshot of a group of craftsmen, who only a few years before, had launched a revolution in movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The 53-minute documentary features various effects specialists and directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg talking about the painstaking and now-archaic methods (like matte painting, above) used in Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (Incidentally, Gone Girl director David Fincher worked on the effects crew of both films.) Of course, none of those interviewed here are aware that in a few short years, advances in computer-generated imagery (CGI) would transform their industry once again — and put a lot of them out of work.