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Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ Visual Effects Reel Shows Off How Often Practical Effects Got Used Instead

Star Wars: The Force Awakens made a point of using practical effects whenever possible, even for super-impressive props like Rey’s instant-rising bread. But did you know that Rey’s desert speeder is a real, physical prop? Okay, it doesn’t actually hover above the ground like the one in the movie–but everything else about it is real, which is why it looks so real in the movie. In this special effects compilation reel for the movie, just released by the folks at Industrial Light and Magic, you can watch Daisy Ridley get on board her speeder and actually drive it away on it.

Of course, there are lots of examples in the video of times when the creative team did use CGI to render several of the vehicles in the movie, such as the spaceships. Lots of the interior spaceship sets did get built, but the insides of the bigger ones (like the Imperial Star Destroyer) have been supplemented by some green-screen backgrounds to add in additional details. From the outside, most of the spaceships don’t exist at all; you can watch the visual effects team put together the scene where Finn watches the TIE fighter collapse into the sand on Jakku. That was all done in post; in the real world, John Boyega had to react to a green screen.

The Force Awakens‘ effects team had to be careful to make sure that the fidelity of the CGI ships matched up in terms of accuracy with the other physical, real props used in the movie. The TIE Fighter on Jakku had to look and feel just as real and as present on-screen as Rey’s desert speeder, even though only one of those was an actual prop.

It’s incredible to see CGI done well, and it’s clear from the video that a lot of care went into ensuring that those shots looked great, and also, that a lot of restraint was used so that the actors could react to real-life objects whenever possible, rather than rely entirely upon their acting prowess to sell a scene. Not that they can’t handle it, or whatever–John Boyega clearly did a great job at reacting to a green screen, when he had to. Still, the work from the various effects teams for the movie clearly resulted in some high-quality movie magic!

(via Uproxx, image via YouTube screencap)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (