special effects

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special effects,

in motion pictures, cinematographic techniques that create illusions in the audience's minds as well as the illusions created using these techniques. Some common examples are the use of rear-screen projections, in which previously photographed material is projected behind the actors; the filming of miniature objects in such a way that they look life-size; and the use of animation techniques to create realistic looking scenes, creatures, or objects that can be combined with live action that has been filmed separately. Disaster films, horror movies, and science-fiction movies are three genres that often depend on elaborate special effects. Such effects were used dramatically in the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark series. See also motion-picture photographymotion picture photography
or cinematography,
photographic arts and techniques involved in making motion pictures.

See also photography, still. The Camera
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Special Effects


filming methods, procedures, and techniques that make it possible to combine in a single image objects photographed at different places and times, and in different scales and spatial positions.

Ordinarily, the viewer sees the same image on the screen (in terms of composition and of direction and rate of movement) that the cameraman saw in the camera at the moment of filming. The special effects image, on the other hand, is not as a rule factographic, since it may be taken in parts (for example, with the actor in the film studio and the background landscape in Antarctica). The natural or decorative part of the image can be supplemented by a drawing or mock-up. The landscape can be altered in terms of tonality and coloring (for example, a landscape filmed during the daytime is turned into nighttime on the screen, or a summer landscape is turned into winter). Special effects filming makes it possible, with minimal expenditure, to show spectacular structures on the screen and to create images that would be impossible to film by ordinary methods because of risk to the life of the actors or other factors (for example, natural disasters, dogfights, battles at sea, the landscapes of other planets). Special effects filming also includes the techniques of titles, montage, and inserts and push-offs between sequences.

Special effects methods include multiple exposure, filming in parts by masks and covers, perspective registration, and projection registration. In addition to the basic methods, there are also mixing-booth techniques to reverse, accelerate, slow down, or halt the action and obtain various transformations, unusual effects, or optical tricks.

The choice of filming methods is determined according to ability to express the image, simplicity of execution, and economy of production. Large film studios have special-effects sections with glass-work, projection-registration, and other specialized rooms, as well as a filming tank, all equipped with the appropriate facilities and equipment.


Gorbachev, B. K. Tekhnika kombinirovannykh s”emok, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1961.
Pluzhnikov, B. F. Kombinirovannye kinos”emki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Kombinirovannye kinos”emki. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(1) See self-extracting archive.

(2) (Special eFfECTS) Graphics techniques that are applied to images and movies in order to simulate a real or imaginary event. Also abbreviated "FX," "F/X," and "SPFX," special effects began in the mid-1800s when "trick photography" was used to combine parts of several photographs into one. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, special effects emerged in film, whereby the director would stop the camera, change some part of the set and start filming again. After the advent of computers, and especially desktop computers, it became much easier to create extraordinary special effects.

The terms "special effects" (SFX) and "visual effects" (VSX) are often used synonymously; however, SFX tends to refer to techniques used during film making, whereas VFX is entirely computer generated. See nonlinear video editing.

(3) (Sound eFfECTS) Real or artificial sounds that are added to a musical performance or movie in order to create a mood or simulate an event. Sound effects can be recordings of live events such as an ambulance siren or a dog barking, or they can be generated in the computer using sound effects creation software.

(4) (Special eFfECTS) The project name for the OpenURL identification system used in libraries. See OpenURL.
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