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Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects Hardcover – June 18, 1992

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Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects + Creating Special Effects for TV and  Video (Media Manuals) + Special Effects: How They Are Done In Hollywood
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Many different kinds of effects are covered, including chemicals, pyrotechnics, weapons, levitation and weather. Written by a recognized expert in the field, this book contains over 200 illustrations and diagrams providing in depth coverage of every detail. Case studies and a "behind the scenes" look at the 'The Fisher King' are included.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press (June 18, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240801083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240801087
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,273,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. F. Curran on March 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
WARNING MACARTHY'S BOOK GIVES USES FOR CARBON TETRACHLORIDE, DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL--EVEN ONE BEER--WITHIN 24 HOURS, BEFORE OR AFTER, OF USING CARBON TET--THE COMBO HAS A SYNERGISTIC EFFECT THAT CAN KILL YOU!

This is a great special effects book but the author is not an organic chemist and so didn't know this. (Carbon tet used to be very comon in cleaners and was thought safe at one time.) Since the author gives a number of chemical recipes you should be cautious about drinking before, or after, or during the use of any of them.

Otherwise this is a great book. There is very little overlap between this book and Bernard Wilkie's CREATING SPECIAL EFFECTS FOR TV AND VIDEO so you might want to get both.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Lealand on April 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Secrets of Hollywood Special Effects was in its day without a doubt an excellent work, and still is packed full of very interesting and helpful references.

While CGI has taken over the mainstream special effects, lower budget films are unable to afford the costs of CGI and real special effects are still in demand, and on stage as well in live productions.

The book quite rightly has a very strong emphasis on safety, and the need to thoroughly rehearse what you are going to attempt.

The author, Robert McCarthy is generous in giving away information not only about the special effect but how to interact with the talent using the special effect.

However his chapter on chemical affects is an absolute shocker, with potassium chlorate and sulphur being frequently used in compositions. These two chemicals can ignite with very small amounts of friction.

Mercurous chloride is used in a number of the compositions, and the dangers of mercury salts completely ignored. No one, but no one uses mercury salts for pyrotechnics, because of the toxicity let alone the cost.

In fact I have to wonder if this chapter used works from the 19th century as a reference, when the use of such compositions was commonplace.

The line drawing illustrations are extremely good, however reproductions of actual film scenes of extremely poor quality and it is difficult to see what is happening. Some of the other black-and-white photos which were shot especially for the book are also of poor quality.

The chapter on fireworks is very dated, with little reference to electronic choreographed firing, and much emphasis on hand firing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J Donaldson on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is an amazing resource for the budding special effects wizard. Whether you have a desire to go into the field of big Hollywood effects or if you just have a genuine interest in the "how did they do that" side of the effects business, this is a great guide.

In this day and age it is rare to find books that lay out a helpful guide to practical effects. While I have heard that perhaps some of the chemical information is outdated or mis-stated (chemicals being something I think you should always make sure you understand...eg: beware recipes) I still think the book is worth having for its explanation of all sorts of major on-set effects. Great book! Worth getting!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know Old School Special Effects, or learn how they did a special effect this book should be on your bookshelf. Many of Hollywood's SPX techs have this book in their libraries for reference. This book is very helpful in understanding the principles of Special Effects and as a SPFX tech myself I would say that you should have this book in your shop.
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