So I learned about something new today. Have you heard of the Instagram “VFX magicians”? These are visual effects whizzes who post short videos to Instagram (also TikTok, and once upon a time Vine) that are digitally manipulated to create illusions, or magic tricks, you might say. Zach King is one of the most famous, a 30-year-old “internet personality, filmmaker, and illusionist based in Los Angeles” according to Wikipedia, whose content is appealing whimsical and really quite slick.
He first became known for a 2011 YouTube video of kittens fighting with lightsabers. Last December, a video he posted of himself apparently riding a broomstick got 2.1 billion views on TikTok. In four days.
As baffling as King’s digital sleights of hand appear to be, there is something familiar about his work. Essentially, they are trick films, and excellent ones too.
Franco-British filmmaker Thomas Rebour brought King and co to my attention with a short film he made, uploaded to YouTube, and then shared with me via email. Thanks Thomas. This video, which really repays a few careful rewatches, is s supercut, side-by-side comparison of illusions cerated by contemporary “VFX magicians” and similar tricks from George Méliès and his early cinema peers, including Segundo de Chomón, Gaston Velle and James Stuart Blackton. Enjoy!
As Rebour says: “Although techniques and methods have changed, the tricks and intentions remain very much the same. I find it fascinating that after more than 100 years, we are still entertained by the same things! Zach King is truly a Georges Méliès of the 21st century.”
If Zach styles himself as FinalCutKing, that makes Méliès and his contemporaries the In-Camera Kings I reckon. Don’t you? As Georges himself might say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!
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