Visual effects (sometimes abbreviated VFX) is the process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of
a live-action shot in filmmaking and video production.
The integration of live-action footage and other live-action footage or CGI elements to create realistic imagery is called VFX.
VFX involves the integration of live-action footage (which may include in-camera special effects) and generated-imagery (digital or optics, animals or creatures) which look realistic, but would be dangerous, expensive, impractical, time-consuming or impossible to capture on film. Visual effects using computer-generated imagery (CGI) have more recently become accessible to the independent filmmaker with the introduction of affordable and relatively easy-to-use animation and compositing software.
In 1857, Oscar Rejlander created the world's first "special effects" image by combining different sections of 32 negatives into a single image, making a montagedcombination print. In 1895, Alfred Clark created what is commonly accepted as the first-ever motion picture special effect. While filming a reenactment of the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, Clark instructed an actor to step up to the block in Mary's costume.
As the executioner brought the axe above his head, Clark stopped the camera, had all the actors freeze, and had the person playing Mary step off the set. He placed a Mary dummy in the actor's place, restarted filming, and allowed the executioner to bring the axe down, severing the dummy's head. Techniques like these would dominate the production of special effects for a century.
It was not only the first use of trickery in cinema, it was also the first type of photographic trickery that was only possible in a motion picture, and referred to as the "stop trick". Georges Méliès, an early motion picture pioneer, accidentally discovered the same "stop trick."
According to Méliès, his camera jammed while filming a street scene in Paris. When he screened the film, he found that the "stop trick" had caused a truck to turn into a hearse, pedestrians to change direction, and men to turn into women. Méliès, the director of the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, was inspired to develop a series of more than 500 short films, between 1896 and 1913, in the process developing or inventing such techniques as multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color.
Special effects: Special effects (often abbreviated as SFX, SPFX, F/X or simply FX) are illusions or visual tricks used in the theatre, film, television, video game and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a story or virtual world. Special effects are traditionally divided into the categories of mechanical effects and optical effects. With the emergence of digital film-making a distinction between special effects and visual effects has grown, with the latter referring to digital post-production while "special effects" referring to mechanical and optical effects. Mechanical effects (also called practical or physical effects) are usually accomplished during the live-action shooting. This includes the use of mechanized props, scenery, scale models, animatronics, pyrotechnics and atmospheric effects: creating physical wind, rain, fog, snow, clouds, making a car appear to drive by itself and blowing up a building, etc. Mechanical effects are also often incorporated into set design and makeup. For example, prosthetic makeup can be used to make an actor look like a non-human creature. Optical-effects (also called photographic-effects) are techniques in which images or film frames are created photographically, either "in-camera" using multiple exposure, mattes or the Schüfftan process or in post-production using an optical printer. An optical effect might be used to place actors or sets against a different background.
Motion Capture: A high-resolution uniquely identified active marker system with 3,600 × 3,600 resolution at 960 hertz providing real time submillimeter positions
Matte painting: A matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that is not present at the filming location. Historically, matte painters and film technicians have used various techniques to combine a matte-painted image with live-action footage. At its best, depending on the skill levels of the artists and technicians, the effect is "seamless" and creates environments that would otherwise be impossible or expensive to film. In the scenes the painting part is static and movements are integrated on it.
Rigging: Skeletal animation or rigging is a technique in computer animation in which a character (or other articulated object) is represented in two parts: a surface representation used to draw the character (called the mesh or skin) and a hierarchical set of interconnected parts (called bones, and collectively forming the skeleton or rig), a virtual armature used to animate (pose and key-frame) the mesh. While this technique is often used to animate humans and other organic figures, it only serves to make the animation process more intuitive, and the same technique can be used to control the deformation of any object—such as a door, a spoon, a building, or a galaxy. When the animated object is more general than, for example, a humanoid character, the set of "bones" may not be hierarchical or interconnected, but simply represent a higher-level description of the motion of the part of mesh it is influencing.
Rotoscoping: Rotoscoping is an animation technique that animator uses to trace over motion picture footage, frame by frame, to produce realistic action. Originally, animators projected photographed live-action movie images onto a glass panel and traced over the image. This projection equipment is referred to as a rotoscope, developed by Polish-American animator Max Fleischer. This device was eventually replaced by computers, but the process is still called rotoscoping. In the visual effects industry, rotoscoping is the technique of manually creating a matte for an element on a live-action plate so it may be composited over another background.Chroma key is more often used for this, as it is faster and requires less work, however rotoscopy is still used on subjects that aren't in front of a green (or blue) screen, due to practical or economic reasons.
Composite of photos of one place, made more than a century apart
Match Moving: In visual effects, match-moving is a technique that allows the insertion of computer graphics into live-action footage with correct position, scale, orientation, and motion-relative to the photographed objects in the shot. The term is used loosely to describe several different methods of extracting camera motion information from a motion picture. Sometimes referred to as motion-tracking or camera-solving, match moving is related to rotoscoping and photogrammetry. Match moving is sometimes confused with motion capture, which records the motion of objects, often human actors, rather than the camera. Typically, motion capture requires special cameras and sensors and a controlled environment (although recent developments such as the Kinect camera and Apple'sFace ID have begun to change this). Match moving is also distinct from motion control photography, which uses mechanical hardware to execute multiple identical camera moves. Match moving, by contrast, is typically a software-based technology, applied after the fact to normal footage recorded in uncontrolled environments with an ordinary camera. Match moving is primarily used to track the movement of a camera through a shot so that an identical virtual-camera move can be reproduced in a 3D animation program. When new animated elements are composited back into the original live-action shot, they will appear in perfectly matched perspective and therefore appear seamless.
Compositing: Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene. Live-action shoots for compositing is variously called "chroma key", "blue screen", "green screen" and other names. Today, most, though not all, compositing is achieved through digital image manipulation. Pre-digital compositing techniques, however, go back as far as the trick films of Georges Méliès in the late 19th century, and some are still in use.
Visual effects are often integral to a movie's story and appeal. Although most visual effects work is completed during post-production, it usually must be carefully planned and choreographed in pre-production and production. While special effects such as explosions and car chases are made on set, visual effects are primarily executed in post-production with the use of multiple tools and technologies such as graphic design, modeling, animation and similar software. A visual effects supervisor is usually involved with the production from an early stage to work closely with production and the film's director to design, guide and lead the teams required to achieve the desired effects.
^Andrew Harris Salomon, Feb. 22, 2013, Backstage Magazine, Growth In Performance Capture Helping Gaming Actors Weather Slump, Accessed June 21, 2014, "..But developments in motion-capture technology, as well as new gaming consoles expected from Sony and Microsoft within the year, indicate that this niche continues to be a growth area for actors. And for those who have thought about breaking in, the message is clear: Get busy...."
^Hugh Hart, January 24, 2012, Wired magazine, When will a motion capture actor win an Oscar?, Accessed June 21, 2014, "...the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ historic reluctance to honor motion-capture performances .. Serkis, garbed in a sensor-embedded Lycra body suit, quickly mastered the then-novel art and science of performance-capture acting. ..."