Little Tykes Theatre

Superheroes? Or Special Effects?

Hello Little Tykes and Big Tykes!

Summer camp is coming up in only a few weeks and our creative team is brushing off their director’s chairs and Scooby Doo magnifying glasses! Last week you heard all about the people who help the director achieve her goal: the assistant director, cinematographer, script supervisor and props department.

The props department can turn an empty room into a bedroom, dining room, café and many other things. But what about things the props department can’t create? What if you are shooting your film in a big city but the script calls for mountains? Or your filming indoors but you need a city skyline in your shot. Well then you’re going to need some special effects!

Special effects can be created different ways: with small models filmed close up, with mirrors, with computer editing. One common way to create a special effect is to use a green screen.

Mountain green screen

Have you ever seen a superhero movie where someone flies through the sky? You can see all the skyscrapers whizzing by in the background, and it looks so cool! What’s the secret??

The secret is: there are really superheroes and you just have to catch them in action!

Just kidding.

If there are superheros they’re much too stealthy for most filmmakers so instead you use computer technology to paste actors onto an unlimited number of virtual backgrounds.

Flying green screen


This is also known as color keying. It works by singling out a particular color in an electronic image and then using computer software to make that color transparent. This allows another image, which can be just about anything you can imagine, to show through.



Weather forecastYou’ve all seen a weather forecaster predict the weather, right? This is a prime example of green screen at work! Next time you watch the weather forecast, notice the use of green screens to allow the background behind the meteorologist to change. Isn’t it cool that you know how this works now? What other situations have you seen where a green screen is likely at work?


Special effect to try at home: Mirror, Mirror

When you watch a movie like Star Wars, you might wonder does the landspeeder really move through the air across the desert? No? Well then, how did they do that?


The car actually really did have wheels, but what you saw was the reflection of the sand under the car! The mirror, attached to the bottom of the car, blocked your view of the wheels and was angled so that you saw the sand below.

You can try some tricks with mirrors, too.

You will need:

– two mirrors (one hand-held, one pocket-sized)

– a toy car, an action figure or a hand puppet

– a favorite picture book

– a flashlight

– a shiny spoon.

Put your pocket-sized mirror in front of the toy car’s wheels so that it is angled down to reflect the rug. Move the car toward you as you look in the mirror. What do you see?

Try more special effects with your action figure or hand puppet, picture book, and hand-held mirror.

Open your book to a favorite scene. Angle the book and mirror so that you can see the scene in the hand-held mirror. Put the figure or puppet into the mirror scene by holding it between the book and the mirror. What happens? (If you have a mirrored door, you can try this activity yourself at home. Stand with one leg on either side of the door and move the leg by the mirror in and out to fly. Take turns doing this with a friend so you can see each other fly!)


Want to read a mystery that also contains special effects?

Try out Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular!Nick and Tesla
That’s all for now. Till next week!