CGI in movies CGI in movies

How Technology Transforms Movies with Special Effects?

The use of special effects has become an integral part of contemporary filmmaking. When executed, they can take viewers to a magical realm, bring historical events to life, or give a story an extra layer of depth by appealing to emotions. 

Here, we will delve into the definition of special effects in movies, the various forms of special effects, their development throughout cinema, and their effect on contemporary filmmaking.

First, there is no such thing as a modern movie without special effects. There are several effects that make people wonder “How on earth did that happen?– like they would when they explore the endless possibilities available to see. There are also effects that go unnoticed, such as improvements to the visuals that are so slight that they are easily overlooked. Both rely heavily on special effects to achieve their magical cinematic effects.

What are special effects?

The term “special effects” refers to the use of various tools and technology to fabricate or improve illusions in film. Effects like this, sometimes abbreviated as “SFX,” increase a film’s credibility, realism, or fantastical elements. And since the beginning of cinema, they have been employed to fake out audiences with disappearing actors, explosives, and shapeshifting characters. All in service of producing visually arresting scenes, whether realistic or surreal, that would be challenging or impossible to realize with just practical effects. 

Thanks to technological improvements and the possibility of effectively integrating CGI with live-action material, digital special effects are increasingly prevalent in today’s filmmaking.

Why Special Effects?

  • To improve the visual quality of images, objects, and characters
  • For creating either plausible or fanciful settings
  • For making the seemingly impossible a reality
  • For portraying aliens and animals from dimensions beyond human

It is not only in the film industry where special effects have been used, though. Given how they can improve the visuals audiences are provided, it should hardly be a surprise to see them used in other forms of media entertainment.

TV shows and even games across various niches including iGaming titles like these located at each feature some of the best special features around. This is because developers have realized that players want the best gameplay experiences, and many contribute this to the graphics provided.

Types of Special Effects

Two primary types of special effects are used in modern cinema: practical and digital.  Filmmakers who want to submit their films at festivals mostly combine both since each has perks as well as drawbacks.

Let’s check them out!

Practical effects

On-set practical effects include the use of props,  miniatures, makeup, prosthetics, and other similar techniques to create convincing illusions. When depicting physical items like explosions, monsters, or automobiles, these effects are commonly employed to add a touch of realism to a scene.  Plus, actors can better immerse themselves in their roles when given real-world props while filming.

Directors like Christopher Nolan are strong advocates for physical effects. The best of Nolan’s films (think Inception and Dunkirk) feature practical effects over CGI whenever possible. Famous examples include elaborate stunt work, detailed model sets, and even the use of movable sets in the movie Inception.

Creating practical effects may be time-consuming and expensive, and they sometimes fail to live up to the promise of digital effects in terms of control and adaptability. But that’s by the way.  Practical effects have visual aspects and can provide an air of realism, which explains why filmmakers never cease using them.

Visual effects

What we call “visual effects” (or “VFX” for short) are computer enhancements made to cinema and other media to simulate or improve upon visual effects that would otherwise be impossible. Visual effects can be as basic as combining many elements into one seamless shot or as complicated as simulating the behavior of the universe’s most fundamental forces or a particular weather pattern.

The employment of visual effects allows for the creation of imaginative beings, settings, or occurrences that may be physically impossible to capture on film. They provide filmmakers with a wide range of opportunities for expression, but their production may be time-consuming and costly.


What’s more, if the visual effects are unrealistic or don’t fit the story, they can be a major turnoff for moviegoers and bring down the quality of the movie as a whole. So, filmmakers need to think carefully about utilizing visual effects to get the intended result while making the audience believe it might have happened in real life.

Evolution of Special Effects Over the Years

The origins of visual effects in motion pictures may be traced back to the very first movies ever made. The first attempts at using special effects in films marked the beginning of filmmakers’ exploration of new ways to deceive the viewer. Silent films were one of the oldest mediums to use trick photography and practical effects. The lack of synced music meant that these had to rely mainly on visual narrative.

Stop-motion animation was one method widely used at the time. Motion was achieved by capturing individual frames and subtly repositioning the subject or figure between them.

Films like The Lost World (1925) employed stop-motion animation to bring prehistoric creatures to life with startling realism.

There has been a sea change in the moviegoing experience thanks to the innovations in visual effects technology that have taken place from the 1970s to the modern day. The advent of CGI in the 1980s gave filmmakers a plethora of new options for producing eye-popping and emotionally resonant special effects.

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