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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 CG 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 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 of 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 utilised VFX and CGI. Other than films, television series, and web series are also known to utilise 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 are specialized in the field of visual effects areas, among which: Digital Domain, DreamWorks Animation, Framestore, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixomondo and Moving Picture Company.
The VFX and Animation studios are scattered all over the world; studios are located in California, Vancouver, London, Paris, New Zealand, Mumbai, Bangalore, Sydney, Tokyo, Hyderabad and Shanghai.
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.
Animation is a method in which figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most animations are made with computer-generated imagery (CGI). Computer animation can be very detailed 3D animation, while 2D computer animation can be used for stylistic reasons, low bandwidth, or faster real-time renderings. Other common animation methods apply a stop motion technique to two and three-dimensional objects like paper cutouts, puppets, or clay figures.
A film crew is a group of people, hired by a production company, for the purpose of producing a film or motion picture. The crew is distinguished from the cast, as the cast are understood to be the actors who appear in front of the camera or provide voices for characters in the film. The crew is also separate from the producers, as the producers are the ones who own a portion of either the film studio or the film's intellectual property rights. A film crew is divided into different departments, each of which specializes in a specific aspect of the production. Film crew positions have evolved over the years, spurred by technological change, but many traditional jobs date from the early 20th century and are common across jurisdictions and filmmaking cultures.
Special effects 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.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an American motion picture visual effects company that was founded in May 1975 by George Lucas. It is a division of the film production company Lucasfilm, which Lucas founded, and was created when Lucas began production of the film Star Wars.
Motion control photography is a technique used in still and motion photography that enables precise control of, and optionally also allows repetition of, camera movements. It can be used to facilitate special effects photography. The process can involve filming several elements using the same camera motion, and then compositing the elements into a single image. Other effects are often used along with motion control, such as chroma key to aid the compositing. Motion control camera rigs are also used in still photography with or without compositing; for example in long exposures of moving vehicles. Today's computer technology allows the programmed camera movement to be processed, such as having the move scaled up or down for different sized elements. Common applications of this process include shooting with miniatures, either to composite several miniatures or to composite miniatures with full-scale elements.
Digital intermediate is a motion picture finishing process which classically involves digitizing a motion picture and manipulating the color and other image characteristics.
Rotoscoping is an animation technique that animators use 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.
Traditional animation is an animation technique in which each frame is drawn by hand. The technique was the dominant form of animation in cinema until the advent of computer animation.
Compositing is the process or technique of combining 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 shooting 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.
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 (compositing). 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.
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. 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.
An optical printer is a device consisting of one or more film projectors mechanically linked to a movie camera. It allows filmmakers to re-photograph one or more strips of film. The optical printer is used for making special effects for motion pictures, or for copying and restoring old film material.
Mattes are used in photography and special effects filmmaking to combine two or more image elements into a single, final image. Usually, mattes are used to combine a foreground image with a background image. In this case, the matte is the background painting. In film and stage, mattes can be physically huge sections of painted canvas, portraying large scenic expanses of landscapes.
Virtual cinematography is the set of cinematographic techniques performed in a computer graphics environment. It includes a wide variety of subjects like photographing real objects, often with stereo or multi-camera setup, for the purpose of recreating them as three-dimensional objects and algorithms for the automated creation of real and simulated camera angles. Virtual cinematography can be used to shoot scenes from otherwise impossible camera angles, create the photography of animated films, and manipulate the appearance of computer-generated effects.
Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. is a Canadian visual effects and computer animation studio headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, with an additional office on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California. SPI is a unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Picture Group.
Previsualization is the visualizing of complex scenes in a movie before filming. It is also a concept in still photography. Previsualization is used to describe techniques such as storyboarding, either in the form of charcoal sketches or in digital technology, in the planning and conceptualization of movie scenes.
Craig Barron is an American visual effects artist, currently Creative Director at Magnopus, a Los Angeles media company that produces augmented and virtual-reality experiences.
The VFX creative director is a position common in films, television programs, and computer games using a large amount of visual effects (VFX).
Deep image compositing is a recently emerged way of compositing and rendering digital images. In addition to the usual color and opacity channels a notion of depth is created. This allows multiple samples in the depth of the image to make up the final resulting color. This technique produces high quality results and removes artifacts around edges that could not be dealt with otherwise.
The history of computer animation began as early as the 1940s and 1950s, when people began to experiment with computer graphics - most notably by John Whitney. It was only by the early 1960s when digital computers had become widely established, that new avenues for innovative computer graphics blossomed. Initially, uses were mainly for scientific, engineering and other research purposes, but artistic experimentation began to make its appearance by the mid-1960s- most notably by Dr Thomas Calvert. By the mid-1970s, many such efforts were beginning to enter into public media. Much computer graphics at this time involved 2-dimensional imagery, though increasingly as computer power improved, efforts to achieve 3-dimensional realism became the emphasis. By the late 1980s, photo-realistic 3D was beginning to appear in film movies, and by mid-1990s had developed to the point where 3D animation could be used for entire feature film production.