To simply put it Ray Harryhausen is a special effects titan. Ray is no short of being a special effects, monster creator, animator genius from when he began to now. He had taught himself most of the skills, techniques and methods that he had used within the films he had worked on as well as having to create all the assets and sometimes editing the footage himself.
I’ve already wrote a little bit about Ray Harryhausen when I watched a short documentary on him at the Bradford Animation Festival not too long ago, which was truly inspiring as well as jaw dropping. It is truly incredible the amount of work and creativity Ray had put into the films and all his creations. The characters had so much life and style to them that you can really see the inspiration from every generation of film makers, animators, visual effects artists and creatives in general.
Even looking at the creatures and animations he had done and created, they still look so pure, vibrant and alive. A lot of his work was obviously more within stop motion animation as the technology we have today for film had yet to be developed to the standard it is today.
Here’s a fan made gathering of most if not all of his creations and animations within film,
You can find tons of information on his films and back story by looking on the more ‘usual’ sites of interest like IMDb and Wikipedia.
But a great place for information on Ray as well as the technique he had used back then to bring his creatures to life, is by checking out his website.
There’s some great information on his own site which consists of the way in which he did his animations as well as the way he captured the footage. The name of this process is dynamation and he’s also got some information on the pre-dynamation techniques with areas and people it was inspired from.
It was a really simple technique but it was incredibly effective at the time.
The technique from the site, “He projected a live action image onto a rear screen in front of which was placed the animation table with the model. He would then place a glass sheet in front of both. When the live action plate had been shot Ray would establish where he wanted to make his matte line and so by looking through the camera viewfinder he would re-establish that line and with a wax pencil on the end of a stick, follow that line by drawing it on the glass. When he was satisfied that the line was accurate he would then paint out, with black matt paint, the lower section, below the line. He would then photograph the animation of the model reacting to the live action on the plate. Afterwards he would then create a second pass in the camera to reinstate the lower previously matted out section so creating a combined image of the creature seemingly as part of the live action.”
I may actually try this out at some point if I could but it’s really interesting to look at the more classic way of doing it as it has influenced current methods and techniques. As well as this, the actual method is pretty much the same thing however on a software basis. The design and creation of the actual creatures are truly amazing, something that I really aspire too. To create something truly memorable and breath-taking even with the design and the animation of the actual characters.