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Award winning special effects artists to give student-only presentation at Wexner Center for the Arts

Award winning special effects artists Ben Burtt and Craig Barron will give a presentation about their careers at the Wexner Center for the Arts on Saturday. Credit: Courtesy of Wexner Center for the Arts

Two of Hollywood’s top special effects artists are coming to Ohio State’s campus for a first-of-its-kind event.

Award-winning special effects experts Ben Burtt and Craig Barron will talk about their work and answer questions in a student-only presentation at the Wexner Center for the Arts on Saturday.

“These guys are pretty much the pioneers of visual and audio effects,” Jason Kincaid, a Columbus-based illustrator and designer, said. “They created some of the film industry’s [standards], and they created amazing works of art through what they do.”

Burtt, a four-time Academy Award winner, is predominantly a sound effects specialist, most notably the mind behind many of the familiar sounds in “Star Wars,” including the iconic breathing of Darth Vader, the robotic voice of R2-D2 and the lightsaber hum. He was also the sound editor for “WALL-E” and created all of the characters’ voices.

Barron is a visual effects specialist who has worked on more than 100 films, such as “E.T.,” “Star Wars,” “Titanic” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the latter of which won him an Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 2009. His work on “By Dawn’s Early Light” won him an Emmy. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his work on “Batman Returns.” Barron co-founded Matte World Digital, a visual special effects company that operated for 24 years.

Kincaid, who has worked with Disney and Topps Trading Cards, said that Barron and Burtt are revolutionaries of the special effects industry and have influenced him personally throughout his career.

He said they had a hand in inspiring him to pursue working in the old movie poster illustration and design style that ultimately became his signature. Kincaid said as a child, his imagination was given a boost from the visual and audio effects he saw in their films.

“That’s why I love working with those movies because they burned the right emotion in me, mentally speaking,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid said that when Burtt and Barron come together, something special is created. He described the mixture of Barron’s matte painting with Burtt’s sound as a combination like “chocolate and peanut butter together” given the atmosphere and feeling in the film.

“Matte painting and the effects, they add the visual atmosphere, and Ben Burtt’s sound design adds the audio … and as an artist, I appreciate that,” Kincaid said. “The imagination that they spark in the viewer creates that whole movie experience.”

David Filipi, Wexner Center for the Art’s director of film and video, said that Barron and Burtt present a rare opportunity for students.

“They’ve only done presentations about other people’s films. This is the first presentation about one of their own films, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’” Filipi said. “This is the premiere of their topic, and they’ll do it at other places after we get the first presentation at the Wex.”

He said the presentation is a first for the Wexner Center as it has never had special effects speakers before. Filipi said the center has hosted many other important voices in the film industry, but that this is the first time it has brought in people from the special effects side.

“It is important to acknowledge and highlight everything that goes into a film, especially when special effects are more front and center in the films,” Filipi said.

As for Burtt and Barron, Filipi said the fact that they are special effects historians as well as artists makes them novel speakers.

“They are students of their field — they know what came before them, and they know how it influenced their work. Not only are they able to share this experience and knowledge with an audience, but not everyone is able or interested in doing that,” Filipi said.

“A Conversation with Craig Barron & Ben Burtt” will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. A reception with the filmmakers will follow at 5:30 p.m.  Admission is free for all students. Students are only allowed one ticket per person, and they can be picked up at the Patron Services desk.  

There is a screening of the movie at 7 p.m. Friday at the Wexner Center. Admission for Friday’s screening is $6 for students with ID. “Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark” presentation will serve as a finale on Saturday at 7 p.m. Admission for this presentation is $15 for students.

 

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