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Top 10 Mindblowing Star Wars Special Effects REVEALED

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada
Script written by Andrew Tejada. The Star Wars franchise was built on revolutionary film techniques and more than a few tricks. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for Top 10 mind-blowing Star Wars Special Effects REVEALED.
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Top 10 Mindblowing Star Wars Special Effects REVEALED


The “Star Wars” franchise was built on revolutionary film techniques and more than a few tricks. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for Top 10 mind-blowing Star Wars Special Effects REVEALED.

For this list, we're diving into the incredible stories behind some of the special effects in that galaxy far, far, away.

#10: A Mobile Introduction
“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)

Star Wars’ iconic opening crawl has been transporting us to its fantasy universe since 1977. Back in the 1970s, George Lucas intended to open “A New Hope” with rolling credits like the ones from “Flash Gordon” serials. Designer Dan Perri took that concept and added elements from the moving credits of “Union Pacific”. Perri made a physical version of the script’s opening crawl, mounted the camera on a track and had it roll over the words to create the signature movement. Once the footage was ready, it was superimposed onto a starry background. The meticulous filming ensured “Star Wars” got off to a good start.

#9: Drawing a Lightsaber
“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)


The lightsaber prop started as a spinning stick inserted into the tube of a flashbulb handle. Originally, the glow came from wrapping the weapon in reflective tape while someone shone a light on it. When test runs proved inconsistent, animator Nelson Shin used a technique called rotoscoping. He took the unedited lightsaber scenes, traced over each frame and put the frames back into the film. With the animation in place, designer Ben Burtt gave the weapon its sound by combining the audio of movie projectors with microphone interference. It all culminated in a weapon that looked and sounded like it was from another world.

#8: Instantly Appearing Bread
"Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” (2015)


When Rey sat down to eat in “The Force Awakens”, audiences were treated to an unexpected effect. After she pours some powder into a bowl of water and stirs, a loaf of bread appears in the same bowl moments later. This effect was incredibly achieved without CGI. Special effects supervisor Neal Scanlan revealed that they hid an uninflated bread prop in the bowl of water. As they covertly inflated the prop, a separate pump sucked all of the water out of the bowl. This clever illusion amazed moviegoers while leaving a few of them with a craving for bread.

#7: BB-8, Seven Times
“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (2015)


BB-8 is a one-of-a-kind droid in the “Star Wars” universe. But it’s a different story behind the scenes. The creature shop created seven different BB-8 puppets for the film. This allowed directors to use BB-8 in a variety of situations. There’s one BB-8 that’s operated by puppeteers, a lightweight version that actors can pick up easily, a few that can be remote controlled, and a couple designed for stunt work. Since they all look identical, it’s almost impossible to know which BB-8 puppet is on-screen at any given time. Who knew that bringing the little droid to life was such a big job?

#6: Paintings that Looked Like Sets
"Star Wars” Original Trilogy (1977-83)


Sometimes the best effects are the ones that you hardly notice. In the original trilogy, matte paintings were used to create fantastic backgrounds without the audience realizing they weren’t actually sets. To create this illusion, artists painted elaborate scenery on glass, that was recorded on film. Then they recorded live action scenes on real sets that looked like the painting. Lastly, the live action sequences were edited into the footage of each painting. This background trick was used for everything from stormtrooper forces to big celebration scenes. Even if you know where they are, the matte paintings can still be convincing.

#5: Blowing up the Death Star
"Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope" (1977)


One of the most memorable “Star Wars” scenes is the explosion of the Death Star. Although the space station itself was a miniature, the explosion was authentic. Special effects supervisor Bruce Logan and his crew tested several different bombs and chemicals before finding the best-looking combination. Then they moved indoors, placed their camera in front of a 40-foot blue screen and recorded their explosions. The effect wasn’t the safest, with Logan admitting that people got napalm on themselves between takes. However, they endured and got the shot. Although it’s been modified slightly over the years, the original explosion is still a wonder to behold.

#4: Creating CGI Characters
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016)

“Rogue One” reintroduced the commander of the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin. Since Tarkin’s original actor, Peter Cushing, passed away in 1994, the decision was made to bring the character back with special effects. Actor Guy Henry delivered all of Tarkin’s lines on set while being recorded with motion capture and infrared cameras. His performance was then combined with a digital recreation of Peter Cushing’s face. The special effects crew went through a similar process with actress Ingvild Deila to create a young Leia. Although the reaction to the cg characters was mixed, their appearances undeniably prove that special effects have come a long, long way.

#3: The Many Sizes of the Millennium Falcon
"Star Wars” Original Trilogy (1977-1983)


Han Solo’s trademark ship came in three sizes behind the scenes. While the ship’s interior sets were normal size, the exterior Millennium Falcon was so big that the crew could only build half of it in their studio. When the ship took flight, visual effects guru John Dykstra helped program a camera to move around and take shots of a four-foot model of the ship in front of a blue screen. All the shots were edited into a continuous scene to create the illusion of a flying ship. The combination of the smaller model with the larger sets culminated in a spaceship we’d love to visit.


#2: The Stop Motion Battle of Hoth
"Star Wars Episode V –The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)


The epic Battle of Hoth was another mix of live action and movie magic. While the actors traveled to a Norwegian glacier for filming, the Imperial army was being filmed on a smaller scale. The crew placed miniature AT-AT walkers on a set with fake snow and a matte painting of planet Hoth. (*xref) To make the machines “walk”, crew members moved the models into different positions for each shot. This meant that it could take a day to get a second of useable film. But their patience paid off when their model footage was edited with the live action film for one seriously cool battle.

#1: Slowing Things Down for the Speeder Bikes
"Star Wars Episode VI –Return of the Jedi" (1983)


In “Return of the Jedi”, Luke and Leia chase down Imperial scouts on floating speeder bikes in the forest. The actors were placed on prop bikes in front of a blue screen to make it look like they were hovering. To capture their high-speed movement, cameraman Garrett Brown strapped a camera to his body, turned down the frame rate and walked through a forest. His slow walk ensured the film looked relatively smooth. The lower frame rate allowed editors to speed up the footage to make it appear incredibly fast in the movie. Ultimately, ironically, this tense chase wouldn’t exist without a slow walk through the woods.
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