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Special Effects Superman: The Art And Effects Of Derek Meddings

01/08/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Special Effects Superman: The Art And Effects Of Derek Meddings in the USA - or Buy Special Effects Superman: The Art And Effects Of Derek Meddings in the UK

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pub: Shubrook Bros. Publications. 160 page illustrated large hardback. Price: about GBP 6.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 0-955610-11-7.

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I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to special effects books. As much as I like watching films, I like to look behind the smoke and mirrors at the skill of the special effects team who make things bigger than life. There are very few books around looking at the work of particular people more’s the pity.

One of the most influential special effects men was Derek Meddings. His work on the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson Century 21 shows from the 1960s has probably had the most influence on the generations of special effects people who followed in his path. His book, ‘21st Century Visions’ from the 90s is already a bit of a rarity and focused on much of this work there.

This book, ‘Special Effects Superman: The Art And Effects Of Derek Meddings’, has a brief glance there before focusing on the twenty-five films he worked on, including six James Bond, two Superman and one Batman movies. This isn’t really a text book, but more an access to the Meddings family attic photo albums showing some rare behind-the-scenes featuring their late father. Each photo is captioned, although I wish they’d chose not to use a gold tinted small font early in the book which could become difficult to read on occasions.

A lot of the work of the special effects people is invisible and its only when you see things to scale, like a city scene, that you realise it’s their work than practical size. The photos from ‘Superman’ and ‘Batman’ here especially testify to that meticulous detail. That doesn’t mean that the effects aren’t made full-size and seeing the Lotus Elan car/submarine in various candid shots from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ also shows how much work was done at any size.

Picking out interesting tit-bits, seeing an early sketch of Thunderbird 2 here shows the familiar design around the pod but with the more traditional wings and tail of a more normal aircraft. It would have been interesting to see the further transitions that made TB2 more sleek but this page alone is worth the admission.

Derek Meddings loved making explosions and a series of photos from ‘Superman II’ of the farm barn crash at scale shows this to its full. Meddings’ attention to detail as shown throughout this book should have your jaws dropping. Such work is frequently done by CGI these days but there is always a place for this kind of work.

This book is now getting low on stock so don’t forget to pick one up for your collection.

GF Willmetts

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