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Movie-Making Magic

Shaking Up Special Effects

Ever wonder how filmmakers create huge explosions in action movies? Or how Marvel films show such monstrous floods? Special effects bring explosive car crashes, dangerous fires, and other terrifying disasters to life, with a little help from computer programming. What if you could make your own mini-special effects from scratch? Today, we'll find out how. (And yes, kids, do try this at home!)


what you’ll need



Ask About Today

Can you tell me about special effects? How are sound effects created? And what is a Foley artist, anyway?

Dinner Discussion

Have your child share some of the recordings and sound effects they created today. Try to guess the objects used to create the sound or what type of effect they were trying to create.

Skip the Ads

Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.


45-60 minutes

While special effects may seem like magic, they're actually all science. So before you can become an effects pro, you'll need to understand how they work.


The Visual Effects Behind Star Wars

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From the beginning, the Star Wars movies have pioneered new ways to use special effects to bring new worlds (and universes) to life. Check out how special effects teams from all over the world used computer graphics and other techniques to make The Rise of Skywalker.


Action Movie Kid

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What happens when your dad specializes in special effects? Your home movies get epic.


The Science of Special Effects

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Here's a quick overview of how Pixar animators create water, fire, and smoke effects using millions of tiny particles.


Particle Systems 101

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Now, let's learn the basics of "particle systems" and how they're used to create special effects.


Making Water

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Check out how special effects artists can make water from particles.


DIY Water?!

Now, see if you can do it yourself using this special effects simulator from Khan Academy. Try making the particles look like water. (Trust us, this is cool.)



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Got water down? Next, watch how the same methods can be used to create fireworks instead.


Fireworks Show

And now try your hand at making your own using the simulator.


45-60 minutes

Get ready to make some noise. Today, you'll be in charge of making sounds for a film you've already seen: Hair Love.


Understanding Sound Effects

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A movie without sound effects wouldn't be much of a movie. Here's an overview of the magic of making sounds.


Wall-E's Bleeps

Ever seen Wall-E (2008), a movie with no dialogue and only sound? Dive into how the sound artists behind the film made it happen.


Hair Love on Mute

Watch Hair Love again, but this time, turn the sound off. Focus on the clip from 0:44 - 1:47 time stamp.


Household Sounds

Now, find materials around your house that you can use to create as many sounds from this section of Hair Love as possible. Check out this list of possible household objects you could use to create sound.


Put It Together

Record your sound effects using a recording app on your phone. (Most phones have a simple built-in app for voice memos—nothing fancy.) Play your recording back while watching the clip from Hair Love again. How well do your sound effects match the movie?

No phone? No worries! You can also use this recording website on your computer.


Dramatize Your Day

Want a challenge? Using your camera, capture a 30-second video of you eating breakfast or doing a boring task around the house. Now use your filmmaking app to add your own sound effects and really dramatize the scene. (How scary is breakfast now?)

Ask Your Parents: Film Maker Pro (for Android) and iMovie (for Apple) are both free apps for filmmaking, but make sure you check with a parent or guardian before downloading anything.


15-30 minutes


Sound Scavenging

Go for a walk with a family member. On this walk, you have two tasks:

1) First, collect 5 objects from nature that you can use to create sound effects. (Rocks and sticks are always good, but what else can you find that makes noise?)

2) Second, use the simple recording app on your phone to record 5 outdoor sounds that you can use in your own homemade film, like birds chirping, wind blowing through leaves, or a big truck passing by.

When you get back, try applying some of these sound effects to a simple video!

Be Safe: Ask an adult before going outside!