Far From Houdini: The 'Magic' of the VFX Breakdown

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VFX breakdowns are short ancillary videos that advertise the digital animation work undertaken by a VFX company for a particular film or television programme. Claiming to take viewers ‘behind the magic’ of VFX, breakdowns disassemble a wide variety of shots and sequences, and point to the extensive use of computer-generated imagery in contemporary blockbuster cinema. But as much as breakdowns reveal some illusions, they conjure others. Breakdowns operate in a register of speed, fluidity, and efficacy, showing neither the many people nor the extensive periods of time that it takes to painstakingly generate all these VFX. In this article, I reveal how the omission of labour and duration in VFX breakdowns both reflects and contributes to a broader (mis)understanding of digital effects as immaterial, instantaneous, and magical. My case study is Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), a film that links VFX with magic, evokes the breakdown in some of its spectacular visuals, and even outright villainises those effects artists who seek fair recognition for their work
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimation: an interdisciplinary journal
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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  • CGI
  • digital labour
  • magic
  • making of
  • VFX breakdowns
  • Spider-Man

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