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.
See also: Special effects
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.
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. Other than films, television series and web series are also known to utilize VFX.
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, DNEG, Framestore, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixomondo, Moving Picture Company and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
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