How do they make the impossible happen in movies and make it look totally real? For example: ­

  • In the movie ET, how did they make it look completely real when the boys' bicycles began flying?
  • In the movie Star Wars, how did they make it look completely real when Luke flew his X-wing fighter down the trench of the Death Star with Twin Ion Engine fighters in close pursuit? The X-wing fighter, TIE fighters and the trench were all models...
  • In the movie Return of the Jedi, how did they make it look completely real when Leia and Luke were flying at 100 mph on their speeder bike through the forest?
  • In the movie Back to the Future, how did they make it look completely real when the DeLorean car took off and started flying down a suburban street?
  • Even on the TV news every night, how do they make it look completely real when the weatherperson is standing in front of an animated weather map full of computer graphics?

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­In all of these cases, the illusion is created by a special effects technique known as traveling matte or blue screen. This technique allows actors and scale models to find themselves in totally imaginary situations -- in space ships, dangling from rope bridges over gorges, flying through the air (a la Superman) -- and have it look completely real in the theater. The technique is used so often now that you don't even realize it. News reporters are made to look like they are on location when they are not, and complete segments in TV shows can be created this way to make it look like the segment was filmed on location when, in fact, no one left Los Angeles.

In this article, you will learn all about the blue screen technique so you can see how all of these different scenes are actually created.

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