the vfx show #132: Poltergeist

“They’re here…”, Mike Seymour, Mark Christiansen and Jason Diamond go retro with a discussion on the visual effects of the 1982 classic film, Poltergeist.

Show Notes:

Director: Tobe Hooper
Cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti
VFX Supervisor — Visual Effects Company: Richard EdlundILM

Kerner Optical

Films of 1982

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Failed Career of Tobe Hooper — article

Lifeforce (1985)

Ken Ralston

Optical Printers

US Inflation Rate Calculator

Scott Squires’ descriptions and drawings of how cloud tank effects are done

Glass Matte Painting

Forced Perspective for moving camera — video

Steak and bathroom scene — video

The Poltergeist curse

Steven Spielberg Filmography

Super 8: JJ Abrams on his homage to Steven Spielberg – video

American Cinematographer Podcast: Poltergeist: Matthew Leonetti, ASC and Richard Edlund, ASC

Ultracam 35

Mark Christiansen’s Amazon page (register here to get the update to version 5.5 of Mark’s book. Get the Kindle version of Mark’s book here.)

2 thoughts on “the vfx show #132: <em>Poltergeist</em>”

  1. Im fascinated with the old school effects in Poltergeist. Specially the cloud tank but more than to make clouds, to make the puppets float in water. I heard Richard Edlund in an interview saying taht they wanted to express the fact that the ghosts were in another dimension, so they would be affected by gravity in a different way. I found that just great concept. Another interesting thing, the exposure of the effect. Edlund said that if they show to few of the effect, the audience is unsatisfied, on the other hand, if they show too much, you reveal your trick, so it needs to be treated very carefully in the way an effect is shown to the audience.
    It might be a matter for a future podcast. Today with CGI there something that some people dislike. Maybe the photorealistic look is not all that the VFX artist or director need to be concerned. Maybe he needs to be concerned with the time of exposition, the credibility of the scene, well, many other factors. The animation is another thing I’ve heard from some audience at movies. Some people feel the CGI movies ( I mean with many CGI effect) too animated. Maybe the principles of animation need to be different when CGI is used for animation feature or a live action. I know the artist are aware of this staf but I think it needs a bit more discussion.
    Puppets have something that captives audience in a special way and it should be translated to CGI….well it’s jus an idea.
    Thx for your work, it’s very inspiring and motivational for filmakers from all around the world. We don’t have many chances to travel to events or discuss these interesting matters and you are a great help for us.
    Sorry for my bad english
    Saludos desde Chile
    Regards from Chile

  2. I just listened to this podcast again as this is one of my favorite horror movies with practical effects… One small effect that wasn’t talked about in the podcast is when Dianne pushed the kitchen chairs back to the table, went into the kitchen and when she stood back up the chairs were on the kitchen table. that looked like one continuous take…How’d they do that? Slide them out and slide in a new table with chairs? Drop them down on cables?
    Does anyone know? Just a very cool effect that hasn’t received any attention…


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