movie clapper being used in a movie with special effects

The Role of Special Effects in Films and How They Make You Say ‘Wow!’

Have you ever found yourself on the edge of your seat while watching your favorite films and kept asking, “How did they do it?!” Well, these movies have pushed the boundaries of visual storytelling with their special effects — techniques used to create visual and auditory illusions that delight us.

Science fiction and live action films such as Star Wars (1977), Jurassic Park (1993), Avatar (2009), and Inception (2010) have captivated audiences around the world with their special effects. These allow the viewers to get immersed in spectacular worlds and thrilling adventures. Not only that, these movies have also set new standards for cinematic innovation.

If you’re planning to embark on a career in filmmaking, then you’re on the right page. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the role of special effects in motion pictures, including its types. Plus, we’ll discover the difference between special and visual effects, their application in film, and the techniques used to transform ordinary scenes into extraordinary experiences. Let’s dive in.

What are Special Effects in Film?

Basically, special effects serve as one of the major secrets behind the cinematic wonders in films. Filmmakers used such effects since the early days of cinema as they play a crucial role in creating stunning visuals, illusions, and unforgettable moments on screen. Moreover, special effects help improve visual elements in a movie and produce scenes and sequences that are expensive to achieve through conventional means. These also enhance the appearance of characters and objects as well as build realistic or fantastical environments.

Special effects in film come in various forms, from practical effects crafted on set to digital and sound effects added in post-production. These effects make the impossible possible, bringing to life fantastical worlds, epic battles, and awe-inspiring creatures that spark our imagination.

movie production setup featuring green screens for special effects

Types of Special Effects

There are different types of special effects, and each type underscores its own unique charm to the movies we love. These, in turn, create moments that stay with us long after the credits roll.

1. Practical Effects

Think of practical effects as the hands-on approach to movies. These effects involve physical objects, props, prosthetics, and miniatures made right on the set during filming. From makeup transformations that turn actors into fantastical creatures to explosive pyrotechnics that light up the screen, practical effects provide a tangible and authentic feel to movie scenes.

Some examples of movies with remarkable practical effects include Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), Top Gun: Maverick (2022), and Oppenheimer (2023).

2. Visual Effects

Visual effects (VFX) or digital effects are the digital wizards of the film world. Using computer-generated imagery (CGI), green screens, and digital compositing, VFX artists can produce stunning visuals that would be impossible or too dangerous to achieve in real life.

Films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), The Avengers (2012), and Interstellar (2014) showcase the power of VFX in creating breathtaking landscapes, epic battles, and mind-bending sequences.

Related Post: Top 10 Most Jaw-Dropping CGI Effects on the Big Screen

3. Special Makeup Effects

Special makeup effects transform actors into characters beyond recognition. Using prosthetics, wigs, makeup, and other techniques, makeup artists can create stunningly realistic or fantastically otherworldly characters that bring stories to life.

Renowned American makeup artist and prosthetic makeup expert John Chambers’ groundbreaking work on Planet of the Apes (2001), alongside Japanese-American counterpart Kazu Hiro’s transformative creations in Darkest Hour (2017) and Bombshell (2019), showcased the artistry and innovation behind special makeup effects.

4. Sound Effects

While not visual, sound effects are an essential part of movies. They add depth and realism to a film, immersing the audience in the world of the movie. From the roar of a dinosaur to the whoosh of a lightsaber, sound effects help develop an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Speaking of these sound effects, did you know that the iconic lightsaber sound in the Star Wars films, produced by legendary sound designer Ben Burtt, originated from a combination of the hum of a 70s tube television with the buzz of a 35mm film projector? And here’s another fascinating fact: Sound designer Gary Rydstrom drew inspiration from the sounds of tortoises mating to craft the roars of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

actors in zombie makeup for a movie scene

Special Effects vs. Visual Effects: How Do They Differ from Each Other?

By definition, special effects are what you physically add into a scene to achieve a set. It requires tangible efforts to create a scene that won’t occur naturally. For example, a scene involves an explosion part where the lead character and main antagonist duke it out. Artists can throw a match in a small basin filled with gasoline. This creates an explosion that adds snap during the film recording.

On the other hand, visual effects (VFX) are what professionals incorporate after the scene using digital equipment and computer software. Aside from its cheaper price, which makes it more popular than the special effects, VFX paves way for more diverse ideas to put on the big screen.

To simplify, special effects take place during the film or movie production and VFX comes right after the production and happens during the post-production stage or the editing phase.

students brainstorming their movie project together

Master Your Skills in Motion Picture Special Effects with CIIT Philippines

The multimedia and entertainment industries offer a pool of opportunities where you can spark a career. Due to the demand for progress and innovations, a continuous need for pro artists and film enthusiasts like you matters. Hence, developing and mastering your skills in special effects can help you take one step ahead of the game. Plus, enrolling in a reputable multimedia arts school can provide you with the necessary knowledge and expertise to excel in this competitive field.

With CIIT Philippines’ bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Arts, you’ll get the hang of industry-standard videography, sound editing, animation, and photography techniques, making your storytelling more effective and captivating. Aside from this, you’ll also become part of an ecosystem of artists, innovators, and creators who share the same passions and interests, helping one another push their crafts beyond limits.

Additionally, you’ll have access to the institution’s state-of-the-art facilities and industry-standard equipment. These include Adobe Creative Cloud, Toon Boom, and Canvas, ensuring that you’re always at the forefront of technology. Moreover, you’ll obtain invaluable insights and receive guidance throughout your academic journey with our faculty members who have years of experience in the field.

On top of this, the opportunity to land an internship in all our company partners including TBA Studios, Secret 6, and Rocket Sheep Studio awaits. Through our partnerships with these leading companies, you’ll not only gain real-world, hands-on experience, but also build a network of contacts that will benefit you in your future career.

What are you waiting for? Discover your full creative potential and translate your vision into reality. Enroll now and experience the life of a CIITzen!

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