Monday, April 14, 2014

The 1978 BSG series was supposed to have "incredible" special effects. In fact, very few of the effects were special at all. Expensive, yes. This was, after all, a television series rather than a motion picture. BSG spent about $750,000 an episode (about a third of this cost being charged to Universal rather than ABC; note, this is NOT the oft-cited "$1 million an episode" claim), of which about a third went to salaries.

Sets -- and filming the sets -- were the most expensive production cost. The Galactica bridge cost $850,000 to construct and included $3 million worth of computer keyboards, monitors, and reel-to-reel tape decks donated by Tektronix. The large bridge set was designed in sections that could come apart to allow filming, but this was time-consuming and expensive because it required unhooking all the electronic equipment and then reattaching all the cables and power again.

To cut back on effects costs, BSG re-used effects shots over and over and over. Numerous "beauty passes" of ships were made. These were then used to with matte shots of explosions or planets to create a wider variety of effects.

Nonetheless, most of the effects were cheesy. In this shot, a Cylon Base Star explodes. Notice how the sparks float downward? Gravity. Notice how the "explosion" is mostly sparkles and flame? Typical effects explosion.

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