The most anticipated visual effects film of 1997 was certainly TITANIC. With hundreds of people working countless months on the picture, the visual effects crews used just about every single technique known to man to produce the fantastic images to James Cameron's film. Paradoxically, the film is a cautionary tale about reliance upon technology; the visual effects teams used both traditional and high-tech methods to create the film's illusions.
Although there are occasions of inconsistencies, TITANIC's visual effects are stunning. There are shots of jaw-dropping beauty, others where audiences stare in fascination, and others where they will think that there is no trickery involved. That, of course, is the true measure of success for any visual effects film that attempts to recreate reality.
I highly doubt that audience members who paid money to see TITANIC actually believed the filmmakers created a full size, working ship, sailed it around the ocean, only to sink it in one glorious take, with dozens of cameras rolling. But narrative, Hollywood filmmaking is about the suspension of disbelief, allowing the audience to become so involved with the film's content as to be obvlivious to the techniques involved. The cinematography, editing, and visual effects are not the stars, but mechanisms to allow the story to progress, and TITANIC achieves this unlike few films ever have.
Editors Note: The review that follows is a critical look at the visual effects of TITANIC, and is not intended to be an all-inclusive, behind the scenes report of the making of the film's effects. In as many cases as possible, firms and techniques involved with some sequences will be mentioned. For a complete look at the making of the visual effects, check out Cinefex 72 on the newsstand, or call (800) 434-3339 to order the issue; or check out American Cinematographer Dec. 1997 for no less than seven articles on the cinematography and effects of TITANIC.
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