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Ministry of Education.

Special Effects

The visual language of film and television includes a wide range of special effects, or SFX. Increasingly sophisticated technologies enable producers to create a tremendous variety of effects that communicate mood, information, and meanings and can be integrated with the total composition to achieve the intentions of the film.

Computer technology, especially the rapidly developing digital computer technology, is one area of innovation that has greatly increased the available choices of special effects. This has made the management of many special effects and animation easier. It has revolutionised the special effects possibilities, and we see the results on our television or computer games screens.

Some of the most common special effects are optical effects achieved during editing and processing. These include dissolves, fades, and wipes between one shot and the next, which we define in the following pages. Other optical effects are the superimposition of one picture on another or of titles and credits and double or multiple exposures. Some effects are created within the camera itself by the use of different filters. Stunt people, make-up artists, and model makers also create special effects.

Ingenious special effects have been devised in the interests of time, money, safety, and imagination, such as miniature or model figures that are shot to look full size. Science fiction movies often have examples of this technique.

At the heart of many special effects is the technique of stop-motion photography, in which shooting is interrupted often while the scene is rearranged. Animation is created when a drawing or object is changed slightly between every shot - around twenty-four times for each second of completed film. When the film is screened, the drawings or objects seem to come alive, changing shape and moving. Animation is the technology used in many imaginative children's films, including retellings of legends and fairytales. Watership Down and the video, The Magical World of Margaret Mahy, which contains short animated films of five of Margaret Mahy's most well-known stories, are good examples.

Animation may be chosen as the most appropriate way of conveying meaning when the purpose is to heighten the sense of magic or to keep a distance between the narration and the viewer.

Summary of Terms

special effects (SFX) animation

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Published on: 06 May 2009