The Best Feature Film with No CGI:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
In 1992 Francis Ford Coppola filmed Bram Stoker’s DRACULA with no CGI or digital VFX. He fired his Visual Effects team that said the shots he wanted could not be accomplished without modern digital technology. He hired his son Roman Coppola (only 24 years old at the time) and together they shot all the visual effects with either in-camera and on practical sets. The relied upon tried and true techniques that went back to the birth of cinema. The results were beautiful, organic and surreal while using every trick from the previous 100 years of filmmaking. What could have been done digitally was instead created practically by skilled craftsmen that are slowly becoming obsolete in Hollywood.
I hope that day never fully arrives.
Here are the practical techniques used to create the visual effects:
- REAR PROJECTION
- MULTIPLE EXPOSURES
- MINIATURE EFFECTS
- FORCED PERSPECTIVE
- MATTE PAINTINGS
- FRONT PROJECTION
- REVERSE MOTION
All these techniques and more practical effects first perfected by George Méliès are demonstrated in this BTS video from the filmmakers:
For even more BTS footage of both Francis and Roman Coppola on set working with the actors:
The biggest takeaway is that many visual effects can be realistically delivered in a practical way if you plan and prepare properly for each shot.
Also, when you film real actors and props on a real set…the lighting will always match and save you countless hours in post-production. Always a huge bonus!
It’s wonderful to look into the past for solutions as we move into the future of filmmaking…
Until next time…