In this funny 15-minute TED Talk, special effects guru Rob Legato explains, shot by shot, how he made visual effects work in Apollo 13, Titanic, and Hugo. In addition to making great models, he did it by observing what people noticed versus what they saw. A sample quote regarding the Saturn V launch he recreated for Apollo 13: "[The shot was about] what they remembered it looked like -- but not what it really looked like." Legato's message here is relevant for any kind of artist: it's more important to know what your audiences feels they have seen (or read, or listened to), not what actually happened.
Also: "Once you believe something is real, you transfer everything that you feel about it -- this [real] quality you have -- and it's totally artificial, it's totally make-believe, yet it's not to you." -On making model shots in a garage for Titanic, mixed seamlessly with real shots from James Cameron's undersea cameras shooting the real Titanic.
This is terrific stuff -- a smart discussion of how human vision and emotions relate. This guy can do my DVD extras any day.
My favorite laugh line: "I'm the guy out in the parking lot, recreating one of America's finest moments with fire extinguishers." -Legato to a NASA astronaut, upon being told Legato's science is wrong.
Alternately, the TED.com version has captions.