I've been a fan of Emilio Ruiz Del Rio's work since I first read about his work on the film Conan the Barbarian. Del Rio often produces the type of Visual Effects shot that goes completely over the viewers head, one of the main reasons for this is that he uses a combination of Foreground Miniatures/Hanging Miniatures and Glass paintings which are actually filmed on location on the day of the actual live action shoot.
The advantage of the miniature over the glass painting technique is that light and shadow will fall on the miniature from what ever angle the sun is at, a painting light and shadow have to be painted in so they have to match the live action as close as possible.
Del Rio has worked on over 450 films and TV productions and only recently provided miniature work for Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. He worked with Ray Harryhausen doing Glass Paintings for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and worked with David Lynch on Dune doing Foreground Miniatures. These days I see some astounding digital matte work being done, but I also see a lot of cutting and pasting of images that people call matte paintings. Del Rio is a true craftsman in every sense. I just love this old school stuff and recent films like The Lord of the Rings trilogy have proved that there's still room for techniques that have been around since movie effects started.
For me you still can't beat real world FX, even though I work in CG I'd love to work on movie miniatures but doing CG from home is realistic, doing miniatures for a TV show or film really requires a lot more flexibility of lifestyle,being on set etc... Recent films such as Casino Royale and Flyboys have used miniature FX for sequences that people never realized were models. I think that spell of everybody turning to CG FX has died down quite a lot and more productions seem to be using combination of techniques with a bit more intelligence to get the final shot done
It's great to see that a guy like Emilio Ruiz del Río is still working and respected in this age of computers