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From the earliest days, films use visual magic to create illusions and trickery.
Special effects in film help to create elements that are unrealistic. Film first relied on practical effects, but now most of the effects are designed with a computer. Whereas visual effects were often seen as decoration, it is now becoming central to many blockbusters.
Visual effects were created using in-camera effects, such as jump-cuts or superimpositions, miniatures, back projection, and matte paintings.
The optical printer was an important innovation in special effects photography. It was first used to make copies of films for distribution, but Linwood G. Dunn refined the design and showed that it could be used to combine images to create new illusions.
Colour enabled matte techniques such as bluescreen and the sodium vapour process. The 1939 Wizard of Oz is considered the first colour film.
The many new special effects developed during the 1950s increased the level of realism possibilities in science fiction films.
Forbidden Planet (1956) used matte paintings, animation, and miniature work to create alien lands. In The Ten Commandments (1956), the crowds in the Exodus scenes were multiplied with careful compositing. The Red Sea was a combination of travelling mattes and water tanks.
In the 80s, Blade Runner featured a futuristic city with flying cars and floating advertisements.,
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan was the first film to feature a computer-generated scene. Immediately after, the first computer graphics elements were featured.
Visual effects in the 2000s revolved around trying to be more realistic and believable.
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