Special Effects

From the beginning of cinematography development, films have been a popular form of entertainment. They are a sophisticated and integral part of the modern people lives. However, a few people are likely to think about the process of filmmaking. This work is very long and hard as it requires much attention and patience from the filmmaking experts and demands using many different tools and techniques. One of the most significant aspects for creating a new film is the use of special effects. Special effects are a common concept for all the techniques used for recording and editing the film in order to make moving image more real or create certain artificial effects needed for the shooting scene. Special effects, depending on the methods and ways of use, divide into different types. All of them have been evolving to the overall evolution of the cinema. This research is devoted to development of visual effects as they are among the main types of special effects and it is almost impossible to record even the shortest movie without their use today. 

Visual special effects are the effects, which are usually employed for direct image editing by the use of different instruments, including lights, mirrors, miniatures, computer or in-camera properties. While makeup and practical techniques can be used before or during the process of photography, artists dealing with visual effects can also change and improve the moving images after its recording by editing it on the computer. In other words, visual effects are more for using in postproduction. The process of making the visual effects is very important for the general result of creation of a film because specialists in the sphere usually make the last corrections in the movie created by the numerous members of a filmmaking team.


Special effects of this type have existed almost since the cinema invention. The first visual effects appeared in a very short time after the appearance of the first motion picture because making movies only through direct shooting significantly limited the possibilities of creators. Many episodes that they wanted to show required editing due to that some of director’s ideas actors could not portray. Therefore, to make a movie worth of others’ attention, filmmakers had to look for new ways of solving the challenge. The first man who tried to interfere and change the process of film-recording was Alfred Clarke. In 1895, he discovered such technique of visual effects as stop-action photography while shooting the film The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. A year later, George Melies set up the use of camera tricks and became the official founder of visual effects and also special effects in general. 

There are many techniques of visual effects. They have changed from the simple ones invented by camera operators with the use of in-camera properties to complicated and improved, which required the involvement of complex and modern equipment. Among the earliest techniques of visual effects, there were the ones that belong to stop-motion animation. With the use of such technique, filmmakers could change the image on the camera screen by stopping to record the episode for some moments. The procedure allowed them to create the effect of invisible and fast picture change. Simple camera tricks are also regarded as the first visual effects techniques. After the invention of Technicolor, black-and-white movies have changed to colored and bright. As a result, such an approach to visual effects as manipulating with a color became available. First visual effects experts used such simple items as lights and mirrors for creating this type of effects. Such way did not require much effort. However, the professionals had to be aware about technology and projecting geometry if they wanted to create visual effects of high quality. Nusim also distinguishes such techniques as stationary and traveling mattes, matte paintings, forced perspective, slow-motion, fast-motion and time-lapse photography. Many of these techniques Willis O’Brien used in his legendary film King Kong. Most of them are still applied by visual effects technicians and artists. 

With computer coming to the filmmaking industry, digital effects appear among other visual effects categories and have a big impact on the development of this area of cinematography nowadays. The first use of computer-made visual effects one could see in such films as Tron and The Last Starfighter, created in the 1980s. The first 3-D computer-graphics characters appeared in the film Jumanji in 1995. Modern computer technologies and programs make it possible to create special effects in a simpler and quicker way. Such well-known computer program as Photoshop made the process of image editing even simpler. The ILM also created the most powerful computer graphics program named Renderman, which has many tools and capabilities in this respect. In contemporary time, creating of visual effects is almost impossible without computer assistance. Many new types and techniques of visual effects were have been invented after beginning of the digital era in cinematography. For example, the new effect called Morphing appeared among other visual effects. It is very useful as allows transformation of one object to another. Furthermore, previous techniques, invented before computer involvement in the cinema, were improved too. For instance, creating of traveling matte became easier as optical printer, used for creation of a bluescreen effect, was replaced by modern computer programs. Of course, the process of film editing with the use of computer also requires high-level professionalism from editors as well as knowledge of all the details of relevant computer programming.

The use of visual effects can be obvious in some films, but the audience continues to believe that everything is real because of a very interesting and captivating plot of the film. Nevertheless, there are movies that seem to us to be without any effects in spite of a big quantity of them added to the moving images. The issue can be explained by the fact that some visual effects may appear in the situations and places where no one is waiting for them. Moreover, they can be too natural for recognizing and almost invisible, especially for not-professional eye of a spectator. Such effects, created in the computer, were present in the film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason where visual effects animators artificially created the whole landscape of London, including even the skyline.

Undoubtedly, the use of visual effects in films requires compliance with certain principles and professionalism. These film techniques can enhance a movie and make it a masterpiece of art. Nonetheless, such achievement demands from these specialists being extremely hard-working and thoroughly study special effects’ techniques that are necessary to create or edit a specific film. Effects-creating is difficult and responsible work of the experts, which should be appreciated. For this reason, among many awards in the filmmaking sphere, the best visual effects are also nominated and praised. For instance, such notable and amazing movies as Avatar and some films of the series about Harry Potter have won the Academy Award named “Best Visual Effects” and got the golden Oscar as a prize. These films show a high level of professionalism in using the visual effects to the audience. 

Visual effects have some essential benefits. Their use is a safety process, which requires minimal efforts from the actors and can include such simple issues as manipulation with color or creating some optical illusions. In addition, often, using visual effects is cheaper than shooting the needed picture for the camera. Moreover, when there is no chance to find appropriate environment for filming, visual effects can help much to create the required atmosphere artificially. Another advantage of using visual effects is that the film, which is well-mounted, full of bright, perfectly executed, realistic, sophisticated and has modern visual effects is more interesting for viewers. Therefore, it has more chances to become popular.

Nonetheless, there is a disadvantage of reference to visual effects by filmmakers. Some techniques for its creating are still too expensive as the strategies may require the newest devices. Because of this circumstance, not every company can afford to improve the quality of their film by using those effects. Apart from that, if visual effects are not well-done, it will be easily to notice for everyone and spoil the general picture and impression of the movie.

In conclusion, it becomes clear that use of visual effects has contributed significantly to overall history of the filmmaking industry development. With the use of visual effects has always been possible to improve the film. This is due to that the evolution of visual effects, the discovery of new techniques and attracting new equipment for their reproduction lead to the new inventions in the field of cinematography. Professional using of visual effects make the film quality higher and opens a completely new and attractive world for spectators. Modern visual effects allow any motion picture to look both realistic and fantastic simultaneously. They are an indispensable part of every movie today. Visual effects are still developing and will develop in the future according to the science and technology progress. Therefore, they should be researched for the best understanding of such popular form of world art as cinema.