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Legacy FX Makes Armored Heroes Shine

Practical effects still have a place, even in the digital age

In the digital, fix-it-in-post age, it’s easy to assume that the fantastical images that appear on screens are all created with computer generated imagery. But just as there is still a place for sets, costumes and lights, the niche for old-school practical f/x refuses to disappear.

Legacy FX provided armored suits for the Iron Man pics and “Pacific Rim,” as well as the intricate apparatus that “Pacific Rim”’s pilots use to control their giant robots. 32TEN effects, which occupies some of the space in San Rafael, Calif., once occuped by Industrial Light & Magic and Kerner Optical, created some miniatures that were shot in 3D for Pacific Rim . And special f/x master Neil Corbould continues to be busy; he’s sfx supervisor on “World War Z” as well as the upcoming Red 2 and Gravity.

Practical f/x have their limits, though, says Legacy topper Shane Mahan, and today’s high-octane actioners inevitably push in-camera f/x to the sideline “as stories become more and more intricate and audiences expect more and more action, more animation is required,” Mahan says. “We’re bound by the physics of the world. I can’t actually make a man fly in a facscimile of a metal suit.”

On the “Iron Man” pictures, it has been common to fully or partially replace practical armor with CG armor in post. But he’s excited about “Pacific Rim” because the armored Jaeger-pilot suits are always practical.

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“The actors were in the suits. What you shot on camera was what you got. And that’s what I loved about working on the movie. And they were complete from head to toe.”

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