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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 not 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.


See also: Special effects

Early developments

The Man with the Rubber Head
The Man with the Rubber Head

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 montaged combination 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.[1]

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.

Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality with the cinematograph, the prolific Méliès is sometimes referred to as the "Cinemagician." His most famous film, Le Voyage dans la lune (1902), a whimsical parody of Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, featured a combination of live action and animation, and also incorporated extensive miniature and matte painting work.


VFX today is heavily used in almost all movies produced. The highest-grossing film of all time, Avengers: Endgame (2019), used VFX extensively. Around ninety percent of the film utilized VFX and CGI. Other than films, television series and web series are also known to utilize VFX.[2]


A period drama set in Vienna uses a green screen as a backdrop, to allow a background to be added during post-production.
A period drama set in Vienna uses a green screen as a backdrop, to allow a background to be added during post-production.
Motion Capture: A high-resolution uniquely identified active marker system with 3,600 × 3,600 resolution at 960 hertz providing real time submillimeter positions
Motion Capture: A high-resolution uniquely identified active marker system with 3,600 × 3,600 resolution at 960 hertz providing real time submillimeter positions
Composite of photos of one place, made more than a century apart
Composite of photos of one place, made more than a century apart

Production pipeline

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.

Many studios specialize in visual effects; among them are Digital Domain, DreamWorks Animation, Framestore, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixomondo, Moving Picture Company and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

VFX industry

The VFX and Animation studios are scattered all over the world; main studios are located in California, Vancouver, Montreal, London, Paris, Australia, New Zealand, Mumbai, Bangalore, Sydney, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai.[12]

List of companies

Company Location
The Aaron Sims Company Los Angeles, United States
ActionVFX Johnson City, United States[13]
Adobe Systems Incorporated San Jose, United States
Animal Logic Sydney, AU; Venice, United States and Vancouver, Canada
Atmosphere Visual Effects Vancouver, Canada
Barnstorm VFX Vancouver, Canada; Los Angeles, United States
Base FX Beijing; Wuxi; Xiamen; Kuala Lumpur; Los Angeles, United States
Bird Studios London, England
Bron Studios Vancouver, Canada
BUF Compagnie Paris, France
Cafe FX Santa Maria, United States
Cantina Creative Los Angeles, United States[14]
Cinema Research Corporation Hollywood, United States
Cinesite London; Hollywood; Montreal, Canada
Crafty Apes Los Angeles; Atlanta; New York; Albuquerque; Vancouver; Baton Rouge; Montreal[15]
Creature Effects, Inc. Los Angeles, United States
Digital Domain Playa Vista, United States; Vancouver, Canada
Digital Frontier FX Marina Del Rey, United States[16]
Double Negative (VFX) London, England; Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Canada; Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Mumbai, India
DreamWorks Los Angeles, United States
The Embassy Visual Effects Vancouver, Canada; Los Angeles, United States
Escape Studios London, England
Flash Film Works Los Angeles, United States
Framestore London, England; Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, United States; Montreal, Vancouver, Canada; London, England; Melbourne, Australia; Mumbai, India
FuseFX New York and Los Angeles, United States; Vancouver, Canada; Adelaide, Australia (as Rising Sun Pictures)
Hydraulx Santa Monica, United States
Image Engine Vancouver, Canada
Industrial Light & Magic San Francisco; Singapore; Vancouver; London; Sydney
Intelligent Creatures Toronto, Canada
Jim Henson's Creature Shop Los Angeles; Hollywood; Camden Town, London
Legacy Effects Los Angeles, United States
Lola Visual Effects Los Angeles, United States
Look Effects Culver City, United States
Luma Pictures Melbourne, Australia; Los Angeles, United States; Vancouver, Canada
M5 Industries San Francisco, United States
Mac Guff Los Angeles; Paris
Manex Visual Effects Alameda, United States
Main Road Post Moscow, Russia
Makuta VFX Universal City, United States; Hyderabad, India
Matte World Digital Novato, United States
Method Studios Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, United States; Montreal, Vancouver, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; Pune, India
Mikros Image Paris, Montreal, Bruxelles, Liège
The Mill London, England; New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, United States; Berlin, Germany; Bangalore, India
Modus FX Montreal, Canada
Moving Picture Company Soho, London, England
Netter Digital North Hollywood, United States
The Orphanage California, United States
Pixomondo Frankfurt; Stuttgart; Los Angeles; Toronto; Montreal; Vancouver
QPPE [17]
Rainmaker Digital Effects Vancouver, Canada
Red Chillies Entertainment Mumbai, India
Rise FX Berlin, Germany
Rising Sun Pictures Adelaide, Australia
Robot Communications Tokyo, Japan
Rodeo FX Montreal, Quebec, Munich, Los Angeles
SAGA VFX Barcelona, Spain[18]
Scanline VFX Munich; Los Angeles; Vancouver; Stuttgart; London; Montreal; Seoul
Scarecrow VFX Los Angeles, United States
Snowmasters Lexington, United States
Sony Pictures Imageworks Culver City, United States; Vancouver, Canada
Strictly FX
Surreal World Melbourne, Australia
The Third Floor, Inc. London
Tau Films United States, Malaysia, India, China, Canada
Territory Studio London, United States
Tippett Studio Berkeley, United States
Trixter Berlin and Munich, Germany
Tsuburaya Productions Tokyo, Japan
VisionArt Santa Monica, United States
Vision Crew Unlimited
Weta Digital Wellington, New Zealand
ZERO VFX Boston, United States
Zoic Studios Culver City, United States; Vancouver, Canada

The companies above may use their own software or use software such as Blender, Natron VFX, Nuke, Blackmagic Fusion, Houdini, Autodesk Maya, Zbrush, Adobe After Effects, or other similar (in purpose) software packages.

See also


  1. ^ Rickitt, 10.
  2. ^ "". 2019.
  3. ^ David Noonan, Peter Mountney, Daniel Elson, Ara Darzi, Guang-Zhong Yang. "A Stereoscopic Fibroscope for Camera Motion and 3D Depth Recovery During Minimally Invasive Surgery". In proc ICRA 2009. pp. 4463–4468.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Yamane, Katsu, and Jessica Hodgins. "Simultaneous tracking and balancing of humanoid robots for imitating human motion capture data." Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on. IEEE, 2009.
  5. ^ NY Castings, Joe Gatt, Motion Capture Actors: Body Movement Tells the Story Archived 2014-07-03 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed June 21, 2014
  6. ^ 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...."
  7. ^ Ben Child, 12 August 2011, The Guardian, Andy Serkis: why won't Oscars go ape over motion-capture acting? Star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes says performance capture is misunderstood and its actors deserve more respect, Accessed June 21, 2014
  8. ^ 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. ..."
  9. ^ Soriano, Marc. "Skeletal Animation". Bourns College of Engineering. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  10. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (2012-08-02). "'American Pop'... Matters: Ron Thompson, the Illustrated Man Unsung". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24.
  11. ^ "Through a 'Scanner' dazzlingly: Sci-fi brought to graphic life" USA TODAY, August 2, 2006 Wednesday, LIFE; Pg. 4D WebLink Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "". 15 December 2019.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "About Us – Crafty Apes".
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^

Further reading