Joey Shanks has teamed up with the people at PBS Digital Studios to produce a weekly series that explains how to produce DIY special effects for low-budget productions. His YouTube channel Shanks FX has explained how to create planets with dry ice bubbles and how to make stop-motion animations.
Shanks is a self-taught filmmaker who loves experimenting with new ways of working with cheap materials to create high quality special effects.
Working out of his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Shanks works alone, shooting the material to use in other projects as well as shooting himself setting up the effects.
PBS Digital found Shanks after stumbling upon a Kickstarter campaign for one of his projects, “SCI-FLY,” where he was providing video updates that explained how he shot many of the film’s scenes.
Publishing video content for the web has been exciting for Shanks. “The great thing about the web is that you get instant and honest feedback. When you’re showing stuff to your friends…I have some friends who are very critical, but you get instant feedback. It’s interesting to see what people think of your work. It’s interesting to hear an extreme version of what people think of your work. It doesn’t really change the way I do things, but I think, ‘Oh, you got that out of it.'”
Feedback has come in multiple forms; he often gets requests from filmmakers looking to acquire his footage as stock footage for their own projects.
Shanks aims to have a new episode every week, and often supplies bonus content on Fridays. So far, he’s been documenting effects that he’s already worked on, but he’s about to head in uncharted territory.
Because he hasn’t been trained formally in photography or filmmaking, he prefers to work alone. “I don’t really know the terminology — I’m not quite sure how to talk about f-stops or depth of field. With stop-motion and animation projects, it’s just easier to have less people around.”
Shanks plays around with his new GoPro camera:
Shanks creates planets using dry ice bubbles:
Shanks explains how to use a blood cannon: