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New book looks at special effects artists

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A Worldwide Biographical Dictionary of the Pre-Digital Era with a Filmography


Reference books on various areas of motion pictures are significant to our further understanding and appreciation of cinema as an art form. One of the areas of film study that receives comparatively little attention is its technological achievement.

McFarland publishers have now issued a softcover version of Rolf Giesen's 2008 reference Special Effects Artists, previously only available in hardcover. This book covers all special effects artists as an alphabetical reference book, staring with Bill Abbott and concluding with Stuart Ziff. In between there are essays on such noted effects masters as Willis O'Brien, cinematic pioneer George Melies, Albert J. Whitlock, and Fred M. Sersen. Biographical data , credits, and accomplishments are listed and discussed for each entry. The author leaves nobody out, including even those with the most limited effects careers, thus making this a thorough reference.

A glossary of terms, a filmography that dates from the twenties to the nineties, an index, and several nice illustrations are also included, making this the quintessential reference on special effects workers throughout cinema's history. It spans from the earliest experiments to the advancement of greater technology and mechanics -- from "Trip to the Moon" to "Jurassic Park" and how technology expanded and evolved as film itself grew. Among the effects discussed here include matte painting, stop-motion animation, model photography, process cinematography, in-camera effects, traveling mattes, optical printing, and physical and floor effects.

The author has worked in animation cinema and knows many of the individuals in his book first hand. His understanding and appreciation of this area of cinema has resulted in a highly recommended reference for libraries, research centers, scholars, and film buffs. It is packed with data and interesting information.