The VFX Wizard Behind Ghostbusters Explains Why Practical Effects Rock

Illustration for article titled The VFX Wizard Behind Ghostbusters Explains Why Practical Effects Rock

John Bruno is a legend in the world of visual effects, having worked on the first Ghostbusters, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Batman Returns and countless other films. And even though he helped pioneer computer-generated effects in T2 and The Abyss, he still believes practical effects are usually better. Here's why.


Talking to The Verge, Bruno explains his philosophy:

Do as much in-camera as possible. [In Terminator 2], you see bullet impacts [on the T-1000] ... That was practical. Stan Winston called them flowers. They would pop open, and they were chrome. And we also intercut the T-1000 running with chrome claws. You try to do as much as possible in-camera. Going to True Lies, we built a full-sized Harrier jet and hung it on a crane off a building and filmed it flying over the streets of Miami. That was in-camera. It was real....

I think that we're better off because ... we had to do it practically. I think people rely too much now on "just throw it into visual effects." It's actually more expensive to do that. If you do more things practically, there's an expense up front, with principal photography. But that expense will be offset by the cost of doing it digitally in-post. If you see stuff in principal photography, in camera, as much as possible, you can cut your movie, and you also know what the lighting is, what the dimensions are of sets or cars or planes or creatures that you can then match to for photorealism. For me it always comes back to photorealism and I desperately try to make that happen...

When I was working on [the Ivan Reitman-directed] Ghostbusters, the big movie was going to be Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ghostbusters was off the radar. Nobody cared, you know? We did that movie in 10 months, start to finish. Meaning, again, we did as much in camera as possible. We didn't have CG then, and I don't know if it would be better if it were done digitally today.

Top image: Ghostbusters. More behind-the-scenes pics here.



I love this man. I agree with his point of view completely. IMHO CGI is incredibly overused today. It won't be too many years before the model maker's art dies. Does the world really need another Transformers CGI barf fest? I don't think so.

Unless you can make it impossible to discern the CGI from the practical effects and real camera shots, you're failing.

I also mourn the death of film stock. It's not dead yet, but the call's been made to Hospice.