Coolest Class: CTPR 423 – Intro to Special Effects in Cinema

Samantha Kaplan-2015 Viterbi Class 0 Comments

After my first semester here, I decided to supplement my Mechanical Engineering degree with a minor in Cinematic Arts. I had six free units in my schedule this spring, so I registered for Intro to Cinema (4 Units) and a production class for non-­‐ majors, Intro to Special Effects in Cinema (2 Units). Initially I signed up for the class because I thought it would be a fun break from Engineering; however, as the semester progressed I realized it wasn’t a break from Engineering at all, but rather an extension of the problem-­‐solving and creative thinking I do in my Engineering classes.

Intro to Special Effects in Cinema, CTPR-­‐423, introduces students to a variety of Mechanical Special Effects, effects created on a set. Throughout the semester we covered a wide range of topics including effects make-­‐up, the creation of miniatures, and the production of explosions. Each week, we focused on a variety of different topics, mainly related to the creation of these effects. The class functioned as a workshop, meaning we actually produced the effects we discussed. It was through this active participation that I realized how much film and especially Special Effects in film relate to Engineering.

During class, I found myself actively problem-­‐solving. In order to set up the shots, I had to determine the most appropriate method of lighting, the spatial relationships between the actors and the effects, and the best way to capture the shots. Oftentimes this required me to manipulate materials in a unique way in order to solve a problem, which to me is what Engineering is really about. Each unique set-­‐ up for a shot posed a new problem, forcing me to come up with a new solution. Thankfully, the amount of problem-­‐solving I do in my Engineering classes prepared me mentally for this task; I found myself using methods of trial and error, as well as logic, in order to execute successful shots.

I would strongly recommend taking this class as an elective course, or as part of a Cinema curriculum. Not only was it fun, but it also allowed me to see how Engineering teaches skills that are applicable in almost all scenarios.

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