In the previous blog, we explained the definition of visual effects (VFX) and how it is different from SFX. SFX stands for the term special effects, while it could be the abbreviation of sound effects, today we will explore more about SFX. 

In this blog, we’re going to explore SFX in detail.

SFX Meaning

Some illusion in motion pictures, television series, or other visual mediums may be impractical or even simply impossible to be taken in a live-action shot. For example, dinosaurs are impossible to be found nowadays, or in other words already extinct, but have you ever wondered how we could still see them on television or box office?

This is when filmmakers use visual tricks or manipulation to create these impossible scenes into life. These techniques or tricks are called special effects

Special effects, usually abbreviated as SFX or special FX, are often used in the film industry. Besides special effects, the word SFX could also use to abbreviate sound effects. But in this blog, rather than sound effects, we will talk about special effects.

Sci-fi and fantasy mostly require some objects, characters, action situations, and scenarios that do not exist in real life. 

For example, the spaceship in Star Wars, the characters in the Avatar movie, etc. These movies feature incredible SFX, may they be mechanical or optical.

Although nowadays in making modern videos or video games, computer-generated imagery (CGI) or other digital effect are used more often than SFX, the element of tactile “reality” in a fantasy scenario could only be brought up by SFX.  

Also Read: What is The True Meaning of Cinematic Video

History of SFX

Now we’ll talk about the history of SFX.

Substitution splice or stop trick was one of the earliest introduced SFX, where the filming comes to a stop and an actor or object is made to appear or disappear from the scene. 

During this time, the effect created by matte painting and makeup effects were also developed. 

During the 1930s, many studios launched their own in-house SFX, and miniatures, matte shots, and stop-motion animation using mechanical puppets were also developed during this period. In 1933, Willis H. O’Brien, the RKO Pictures and animator, created the stop-motion creations for King Kong.

The optical printer began developing during World War II and remained as the industry standard until the 1970s.

Later on during the mid-twentieth century, when sci-fi films became a boom, the motion picture industry was spurred to develop more complicated SFX. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, Ray Harryhausen and Eiji Tsuburaya, visual effects supervisors from America and Japan, made an incredible development in stop-motion animation, miniatures, and optical effects.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) SFX team created marvelous miniatures through motion control and rotoscoping, and also the illusion of zero gravity by using practical effects, such as wirework and rotating sets. This creation involved hand-drawn animation over live-action footage.

What Are The Types of SFX?

There are two main types of SFX, mechanical and optical effects.

1. Mechanical Effects

Do you wonder how the filmmaker made an organ look so real in medical movies? Mechanical effects, also known as practical or physical effects, are a form of SFX created physically or accomplished during the live-action shooting. 

These types of effects include prosthetic makeup, animatronics of mechanized props, scenery or atmospheric effects, miniatures, and pyrotechnics. 

  • Prosthetic makeup effects

Prosthetic makeup is one part of SFX that helps Planet of The Apes (1986) is one of the films using makeup effects and even won an Oscar award. These effects are also well-known to be used for actors on theatre stages, so they acquired the visuals they want to recreate on stage.

  • Animatronics

The dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park film, the aliens in the Star Wars series, and many others are examples of animatronics.

  • Atmospheric effects

These effects stand for the creation of physical sceneries, such as rain, wind, and other weather conditions in a shooting.

  • Miniatures

The spaceships in the Star Wars movies and other hardware created for the movie’s franchise are examples of miniatures physically made for a set. Miniatures details support the set to look more realistic.

  • Pyrotechnics

These effects encompass controlled combustion and explosions, like those we see in action movies, including the sounds of explosions, gunfire, etc.

2. Optical Effects

Optical effects or photographic effects, such as in-camera effects or optical printers, are the techniques that create a photographic illusion. 

This effect might be used to put different elements together in the same scene, may it be actors or sets. 

Optical effects include two main categories, in-camera effects, and optical printers. 

  • In-camera effects

In-camera effects are produced in-camera, like double exposure effects in edited images or video.

  • Optical printer

An optical printer requires a printer linked to a movie camera to be connected to one or more projectors. This then allowed filmmakers to re-shoot segments of the films, and produced matte shots, fade-outs, and dissolves, or even fast and slow motion, often within the same scene. 

Forced perspective cinematography in The Hobbit, where the normal-sized actors are made to look larger or smaller than other actors or objects, is one of the examples of optical effects in the filmmaking industry.

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