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Film and Television Extras

History

Ever since the dawn of filmmaking more than 110 years ago, filmmakers have understood the importance of using extras to lend authenticity to a scene. Particularly in the silent era, visual effects were very important; people were employed to move about the makeshift sets of a film production to help viewers understand the size of the city portrayed, the number of people affected by the film's events, and other details. D. W. Griffith's Intolerance, made in 1916, is one of the earliest and most infamous examples of a big-budget production that relied a great deal on extravagant sets and huge crowd scenes. Extras were dressed in a variety of period costume and recreated epic battle scenes. In one sequence, extras storm the immense walls of ancient Babylon; in another, extras play factory workers shot down by police. Today, large crowd scenes are still used in big productions to provide scenes with greater power and scope. Though computer-generated images are increasingly used to fill out the crowd scenes of such films as Elizabeth and Titanic, many extras are still used. For Titanic, these extras were filmed in costume in a room, and added later to the deck of the digitally created ship.

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