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The History Of Visual Effects

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2929 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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The moving images has always enthralled and surprised its viewers. Since the first ever video of horse running to prove his animal feature to the latest video featuring Akon or Eminem, or to the latest film avatar which took 10 long years for its completeion, this medium of Moving Visual Images has come a long way and still far more to go and explore.

The most influencial among these moving images is the medium of cinema. I has a strong hold on people, they never get tired of movies. This is the key thought behind movie making . If the people are showing any hesitation towards the movies, the makers would soon come up with new ideas and technologies.

If the Improvement is in the field of technologies it would certainly be containing the word Effects in its priority list. Effects is the most important and key part behind the film Industry now. More than 90% of films releasing today has a Special or Visual Effects sequence in some part of its running time or may be the entire movie would be VFX showcase.

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The first film screening was done on December 28, 1895 showing 10 short films of 20 minutes in total was held in the basement launch of the Grand cafe on the boulvard des capucines in Paris, and the inventers of this technique of capturing and projection of sequence of images were by the Lumere Brothers. And now A single film is releasing world wide on the same day in more than thousands of theatres. The growth of the Industry was in tick of a time but this tick of time has a lot more to say.

Louis Lumiere once said about cinema ” Cinema is an invention without any future”. He might have been right when he made this statement, The period of invention, Invention of usabel electricity, steel and petroleum products which inturn lead to the second Industrial revolution.

But that statemnt of Louis Lumiere would be a joke at this poit of time, In this era of technologies and development, A period when manpower is questioned by the machines. Experiments were the key to improvement, innovation and inventions. The technologies dint come up by itself There is a lot of hard work and lot of man power behind it.

A small brief of the eveolution of Effects.

Special Effects

Smokes and mirrors were the first visual effects tool used in the begning of movie making to create Effects. The smoke and mirrors with the help of tricky camera techniques startled the audience. This was achiedved with the help of human inablity of vision, that they will see sequence of images as they are in motion and not as single images. These was scientifically called as the persistance of vision.

These simple techniques were produced within the camera, such as simple jump-cuts or superimpositions, or were created by using miniatures, back projection, or matte paintings.

The first ever Special effect used ina motion picture is called “Stop trick”and It was the first type of photographic trick in motion pictures.

The trick is simple,Executed by Alfred Clarke in 1895. 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, Clarke stopped the camera, had all of 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.

George Melies a French magician is a personality whom I shouldn’t miss when speaking about the History of Special Effects. He is also reffered as the Cinemagician. George melies accidently discovered the same “Stop trick”. While he was filming in the streets of paris, his camera got jammed. And later when it was screened He found that “Stop Trick” has caused a truck turn into a hearse, Pedestrians to change direction and men turned into women.

Melies the stage manager at the theatre Robert-Houdin, was inspired to develop na series of more than 500 short film, between 1896 and 1914, 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 cinematography.

He used this trick when shooting his eight-and-a-half minute famous Nickelodeon based on Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. This video featured a combination of live action andanimation, and also incorporated extensive miniature and matte painting work.

Introduction To Visual Effects

Visual Effects or VFX is a subsidiary part of special effects.

What is VFX

Visual Effects (Visual FX/VFX) is the various process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of a live action footage. Visual Effects involve the Integration of computer generated Realistic Environments, characters or Effects which is dangerous, costly or simply impossible to capture on film. The technique of Visual Effects is now commonly used in Big Budget films as the generation is a costly business. The Availability of affordable Compositing and 3D softwares creates a wave among the amateur film makers to include these techniques in their films too.

Different Techniques Involved or Integrated with Visual Effects


Animation is the technique by which images which would be 2D or 3D artwork or model position shown in a sequence such that it creates an illusion of motion. This is due to the optical illusion of motion which is in turn by the persistence of vision of our eye. The most common method of presenting this would be motion picture or a video program although there are plenty of other methods.

Chroma key:

Chroma key compositing or Chroma Keying is the technique of compositing two images or frames together in which a color or small color range from the above image is removed or made transparent revealing the image behind it. This technique is also referred as Colr keying or Color separation overlay green screen or Blue screen.


Compositing is the combining of of visual elements from various sources to one image, creating an illusion that all these elements are the part of the same scene. Live action shooting for various compositing are called, chroma keying, green screen, blue screen etc. All compositing involves replacing one part of an image with another part from another image. In the digital method of compositing the software command designates a narrowly defined color as part of an image to be replaced. Then every pixel from the source image is replaced by the pixel from the image which has to be in place. That should be aligned in such a way that the whole composition should look like a single image or frame.

Computer Generated Imagery:

Computer Generated Imagery or CGI is the application in the field of Computer graphics or more precisely 3D computer graphics to special Effects in films, Television programs,

Commercials etc. CGI is used for films because its controllable than the other physical processes like Constructing miniatures or calling Extras for the crowd sequence. And the advantage CGI has over other mediums is that It can be controlled and edited by one individual/CG Artist without the help of Actors, Expensive set pieces or Costly props.

Matte Painting:

A matte Painting is the painted representation of a landscape, Set or Distant location that allows filmmakers to create an illusion which would rather be very much expensive, impossible to visit or shoot on a live action film. During the course of time since its first usage, The artist have used and experimented different techniques on matte painting. But the quality of output of matte painting is seamless and is directly proportional to the skill level of the artist and his imaginations.

Rear Projections:

Rear Projection is an in- Camera special effect technique used in film productions to combine foreground performance with pre-filmed backgrounds. It was widely used and still being used to show background motions like driving or a “distant” Background motion. The projector is placed behind the screen which is called plate and casts a sequence of images on to the screen. As the projector is behind the screen a reversed image is casted which makes the image looks fainted or washed out . A large area of space is occupied for this kind of projections as the projector is kept at a distance from back of the screen. Since the screen is called plate, “Roll Plate was the command given to the crew to roll the projector according to the time.

Front Projection Effect:

In contrast to rear projection, in front projection the background image is projected onto both the performer and a highly reflective background screen, with the result that projected image is bounced off the screen and into the lens of a camera. This is achieved by having a screen made of a retroreflective material such as Scotchlite, a product of the 3M company that is also used to make screens for movie theaters. Such material is made from millions of glass beads affixed to the surface of the cloth. These glass beads reflect light back only in the direction in which it came, far more efficiently than any common surface.

The actor (or subject) performs in front of the reflective screen with a movie camera pointing straight at him. Just in front of the camera is a two-way mirror angled at 45 degrees. At 90 degrees to the camera is a projector which projects an image of the background onto the mirror which reflects the image onto the performer and the highly reflective screen; the image is too faint to appear on the actor but shows up clearly on the screen. In this way, the actor becomes his own matte. The combined image is transmitted through the mirror and recorded by the camera.

Schüfftan process:

Its a special Effect technique used in the first of 20th century before being completely replaced by traveling matte. This process is named after its Inventor Eugen Schüfftan(1893-1977)Schüfftan placed a plate of glass at a 45-degree angle between the camera and the miniature buildings. He used the camera’s viewfinder to trace an outline of the area into which the actors would later be inserted onto the glass. This outline was transferred onto a mirror and all the reflective surface that fell outside the outline was removed, leaving transparent glass. When the mirror was placed in the same position as the original plate of glass, the reflective part blocked a portion of the miniature building behind it and also reflected the stage behind the camera. The actors were placed several meters away from the mirror so that when they were reflected in the mirror, they would appear at the right size. .

Visual special effects techniques in rough order of invention

practical effects

in-camera effects

miniature effects

Schüfftan process

matte paintings


Dolly zoom

optical effects

travelling matte

aerial image effects

optical printing


prosthetic makeup effects

motion control photography

Audio-Animatronic models

digital compositing

wire removal


match moving

Virtual cinematography

Landmark movies

2001: A Space Odyssey (Pioneer in spaceships models)

Amadeus (Old age stipple, era effects)

The Birds (Male/Female Matte developments)

Buddy (Animatronics)

The Day After Tomorrow (Prolonged digital shots, playing with “weather effects”)

Independence Day (Digital effects combined with small-scale models)

Jurassic Park (Large animatronics, creating creatures from scratch)

King Kong (2005) (Motion Capture)

The Lord of the Rings film Trilogy (Created Massive Software, prosthetic work, digital effects, motion capture)

The Matrix Trilogy (Bullet Time)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Motion capture from a 2D image)

Star Wars (Creation of original, practical effects, “destruction” effects, pioneer in spaceships models)

Superman (Human flight)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (3-Dimensional Morphing and 3D Human Body)

The Terminator (Digital effects)

Titanic (Model work, computer generated water, motion capture)

Toy Story (Complete Computer Animation)

Tron (Computer animation, virtual sets)

The History Of Indian Cinema

History Of Indian Cinema

The first ever screening In India was held in Bombay at Waston’s Hotel in the year 1886, six soundless short films were screened by Lumiere Cinematographe just on year after the first ever screening by Lumiere Brothere’s in Paris. Soon after, Hiralal Sen and Bhatavdekar started making films in Culcutta(now Kolkatta) and Bombay(now Mumbai) respectively. First acuality films were made by Bhatavdekar in 1899 just like the Lumiere’s did.

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Thogh there were many efforts in making feature films since the introduction of Film in India, The first feature film Raja Harishchandra was made in the year 1913 by Dada Sahab Phalke, He was later known as the Father of Indian Cinema.By the year 1920, The begning of Indian film Industry was started and started with 27 films per year, reached 207 films in 1931 and today India makes about more than 1000 films per year.

A world record has been set in 2009 by producing about 2961 films on cellulloid which includes a staggering figure of 1288 feature films.

Visual FX in India

The History of Indian Visual FX dates back to the silent era, At the same time as hollywood films were experimenting and Executing VFX, India has also closely followed and caught on. Dada Saheb Phalke’s silent movie Kalimardhan in the year 1919 is one example wit such work. Later came movies like Padhala Bhairavi and Mya Bazar which took VFX to greater heights.

The Golden Era(1940-1960) Of Indian Cinema: This was the era when Indian films where well acclaimed and Appreciated along with the growth of world Cinema. The films were treated well in the Industry. This nourished and helped the Indian film makers to Explore and Experiment both technically and story base.

There were many experiment in the field of cinematography innovating new techniques and experimenting with new Ideas. Cinematographers like Subrata Mitra were pioneers in that. His techniques had an Impact on the cinematography of the world cinema. His techniques included Bouncing the light that’s using the daylight on the sets.

Then came the major twist, which has made the Indian films to lack behind in Techniques. The reason are many, But two main reasons would be The usage of computer generated technologies in world cinema where Indian filmmakers were drawn back, as the Indian Scientists and technologist may ot have helped the field of cinema in improving its quality.

The second reason would be, Eventhough the scientists and Technologists were keen in helping the Indian film for producing the special effect techniques, Indian film makers might have more preferred creating Masala Movies( A colocial word used for the Typical Indian Commercial Film) fledged with Darama, songs, Tragedy and all. As the medium of cinema is a Pure process of Business through Entertainment.

Even then Few movies were released in Indian Cinema with magnificant Films with special Effects, Makers being the pure lovers of Cinema, and whoe adored the growth of world Cinema.

The 90’s: Begning of The Visual FX

The 90’s has to be considered as the milestone decade for the Visual FX Of Indian Cinema. This decade show us first that Indian Cinema has the strengh and courage to Compete with the world cinema in Visual FX. The first live action movie incorporating animation in India was “O Faby” in 1993, A malayalam feature film.

Then Came a film in the year 1994 where the lead Actor was dancing with his heroine for the song “Mukkala Mukkabula” but the surprise was that only his clothes were visible and his body parts were just blank or Invisible. This was the first time when Indian Audience as well as the makers were experiencing such a technique in an Indian cinema. The Indian Government had been too impressed with this dance I think, From the next year onwards, 1995 The rajat Kamal or Silver Lotus for Special Effects have been Included in the National Film Awards. The first award went to none other than the creator of this piece of Effect Mr. Venky.

Venky has shown his talent in the 1993 released film Gentleman and did some charisma in the movie, and then he came to work in Kadhalan and grabbed the award.

But it would be too Unfair If I dont mention the Director Both the films, which is the same person, who has shooked each and everyfilm maker in the country with his love toward Visual FX, with his love towards Cinema, with his belive in the Visual FX, and shooked the whole country with his latest film Endhiran/Robo( 2010), Simple but fledged with Innovative ideas Mr. Shankar.


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