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   Book Review
   Special Effects:
   How to Create a Hollywood Film Look
   on a Home Studio Budget
   Author: Michael Slone
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Pages: 232 pgs.
   Topic: Creating Low-budget special effects

   MSRP: $31.99

   Special Pricing:  Click Here
   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Expected Release: April 1, 2007
   Review Date: February 15, 2007
   Reviewed By: Jeremy Hanke
Final Score:

Normally, whenever we review books, my assistant confirms and requests them from companies so that I don’t have to deal with that in addition to all my other duties as editor of the magazine. However, when I happened to see a press release from MWP about this book, I immediately requested it for review personally. I believe my email to MWP’s vice president, Ken Lee, said something to the effect: “Did you even have to ask? You had this written specifically for our readers, didn’t you?”

While that might be a bit presumptuous, this book is squarely aimed at microfilmmakers and it succeeds in delivering a very helpful piece of work that is as much about inspiration as it is about what it teaches you. It doesn’t cover every special effect out there, but it covers the basics of enough physical and digital effects to get you excited about planning shots you might never have had the courage to try. And, once you start thinking outside the box, the inspiration kicks into overdrive.

With that said, let’s look at what the book has to offer.

This is one of the easiest to understand books out there, especially for filmmakers. Why? Well, filmmakers are visual people and this book is very visual, being chocked full of pictures and illustrations. The words that are there are pretty simple to grasp, consisting of an intro paragraph relating directly to the effects that are going to be achieved in each chapter and then notes on each step that’s chronicled through the pictures in the book.

Depth of Information
Many folks would think that a book that consists of so many pictures would be light on information, but this is definitely not the case. Mike Slone covers everything from physical effects like Airsoft gun selection and creating rain bars to special shooting effects like blue & green screen chromakeying to digital effects like muzzle flashes and light sabers. While he doesn’t go into lots of projects, the ones he showcases are very detailed and will encourage you to really explore what you can accomplish in both physical effects and in digital effects with programs like Photoshop and Premiere Pro.

In addition to all this, there is lots of information in the back of the book that encourages you to check out other services that are especially designed for low budget filmmakers, many of which have been reviewed at this magazine, like FXHome’s special effects software, Video Copilot’s Serious Effects & Compositing, and Hollywood CameraWork’s Master Course in High End Blocking and Staging. Additionally, he has info on what things to look for in creating a special effects computer, what type of cameras you might want to look at, and a variety of other helpful tips and tidbits.

The only thing that I really feel is missing is a few how-to guides for special effects using After Effects, especially since many filmmakers who use Photoshop are going to have After Effects. Still, I can understand that he wanted to keep it at the most basic level to prevent folks who can’t afford After Effects from being passed over.
Attention Captivation
With the easy to follow tutorials and the pictures, it’s hard to get bored with this book. The helpful information and doable descriptions tend to excite most filmmakers, which is another thing that prevents a reader from getting bored.

The straightforward layout of the book makes it a snap to look up how-to guides when you want to recreate an effect or to remember one of the companies that Mike mentions as sellers of F/X goods or helpful software.

Value vs. Cost
Although $32 isn’t really cheap for a soft cover book, it is definitely worth the cost due to the depth of information and the amount of graphical content. This is a book that should be owned by any filmmaker who wants to add special effects to any of his films.

Overall Comment
With a broad look at special and visual effects that can really increase the visual appeal and power of ultra-low budget films, Special Effects is a must own effects primer for low-budget filmmakers the world over!

Now, if Mike and MWP will just take this same approach and create a book on creating common video equipment like Steady-cams, dollies, cranes, and the like, that would be awesome!

If you would like to get a feel for this book, check out the two reprinted pieces MWP graciously allowed us to put in this issue. The first is on selecting realistic prop guns for gunfights and the second is on simulating bullet hits with special paintball rounds.

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           
JeremyHankePicture The director of two feature length films and half a dozen short films, Jeremy Hanke founded Microfilmmaker Magazine to help all no-budget filmmakers make better films. His first book on low-budget special effects techniques, GreenScreen Made Easy, (which he co-wrote with Michele Yamazaki) was released by MWP to very favorable reviews. He's curently working on the sci-fi film franchise, World of Depleted through Depleted: Day 419 and the feature film, Depleted.

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