Readers of this post fortunate enough to have attended film school had the opportunity to study the masters of crafts from directing and cinematography to lighting and scene design. Look at the most influential work being done today, and you can't help but notice that it's dominated by a newer, but no less major creative force: visual effects. It’s an art which truly began in its current form with the revolution that was Star Wars, and it was in the great wake of that mother of all blockbusters that Cinefex Magazine was founded to cover the revolution in detail, beginning in 1980.
You wouldn’t respect a director who didn't know the work of influential filmmakers, or a director of photography who had never heard of Sven Nyquist, Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall. That you may have become a visual effects professional without much about the work that preceded yours is perfectly understandable, because its brief history has been locked away. Until now.
I founded a team to create the Cinefex app because I believe that the information in those pages is relevant to filmmakers today. Cinefex has been the sole chronicle of the most creative period of visual effects history, and while it may seem as if the world has moved on from practical effects-based effects filmmaking that dominated before computer graphics took over, we’ve just become smarter about it. While a very few studios work on projects with eight-figure visual effects budgets, a new wave has discovered how much more efficient—and how much more fun—it is to create effects by combining the old methods—miniatures, pryo, motion-control and stop motion, props and prosthetics, to name a few—with what can be done on a desktop computer.
I myself have worked on independent films that smartly combined old and new school methods to create something entirely new, and mining old copies of Cinefex, in which the process and discoveries of the worlds most able and creative effects practitioners were described in detail, is a key part of the process. The problem has been access; collecting the entire first 30 years of the magazine might easily cost well over $2000, and then you have shelves full of printed magazines with no easy way to search through them for what you need to know.
Cinefex for iPad is designed to do something not even the biggest publications have done: not just scan and convert a bunch of old magazines, but restore the images and do the search right. Marking up the text so that the application understands what you’re looking for—a person, studio or movie, for example—is more powerful than a simple text search with no context or weighting, which can be practically useless.
I could go on about this at some length, but if your curiosity is aroused I encourage you to check out the crowdfunding campaign for Cinefex for iPad that launched at the end of last week and runs until August 16. It is a passion project reflecting multiple man-years of work, and I hope it provides something really useful to you.