FX Civil – San Andreas (Trailer)

I have always been fascinated by the incredible visual effects in blockbuster movies and video games. FX Civil is where I break down a movie or video game that implemented civil engineering and architecture in a believable and incredible way. I hope that I can learn from case studies of amazing special effects such as these but, let’s be honest, these types of visuals are just awesome and should be appreciated. While Civil FX is the art of approaching special effects from a civil engineering point of view, FX Civil is where we approach civil engineering from a special effects point of view.

This installment of FX Civil is cheating a little bit. San Andreas is a blockbuster set to be released in May of 2015, around four months after this post.

That said, I’ve seen the trailer so I’ve… sort of seen the whole thing, right? Perhaps in the future I will create an update if I ever get around to seeing the full film, but as for today, I’m basing this FX Civil on just the trailer, embeded below.

The secret of special effects is that you only have to make it look like people think it should look. Details that would absolutely be there in real life aren’t necessary if the audience doesn’t know they would be there. This trailer has so little footage that it is hard to catch but there is about a second of this when you first see the (nicely product placed) Ford pickup drive up to the fault. You can see inside the fault, deep into the earth. There is a stream of water coming from a broken water pipe.

Again, this detail, if left out, would cause little to no uproar. But that is when you know a movie is doing the civil special effects right.

This continues throughout the short clip when the rippling earth causes sporadic (not complete or absolutely no) explosions from gas lines. I would guess that the rippling effect is the result of post processing using something like After Effects as modeling LA on that scale and to that level of detail probably wouldn’t make much sense.

Buildings fall and concrete crumbles. The Hollywood sign topples over and it is completely believable. Actually, that is another reason why this movie caught my eye when there are so many others like it (2012, anyone?) Early indications seem to show that San Andreas is more serious about making the special effects quality and believable rather than just destroying crap.

And then the final scene of the trailer really caught my eye as it hit close to home. This video may serve as a reminder as to why this part of the world is near and dear to me (physically and emotionally). I’ve seen the Hoover Dam destroyed many times in film (Superman: The Movie, Transformers) and video games (Split Second) but this is the best I’ve seen.