Filmmakers use visual effects to provide a wide range of enhancements to movies of every genre. It's a part of entertainment that began even before movies: Magicians used many early movie techniques to enhance their performances [source: University of Texas El Paso]. Though most people associate visual effects with the creation of fantastic or imaginary characters, props and locations for science fiction, animation and other nonrealistic film genres, there are other reasons to use visual effects. Perfecting a scene by correcting colorization is one example. Budgetary considerations can also play a part in the decision to contact a visual effects company -- a film can save on payroll expenses by replacing armies and crowds of actors with a computer-generated crowd or army. Similarly, visual effects can be used to place actors in different locations without incurring the cost of filming on location.
One reason why the use of visual effects really took off in the 20th century with the computer revolution was because of the ease with which computer software generated special effects. Computer technology helped visual effects experts better combine real images filmed in studios and on location with digital images produced using sophisticated software programs. For example, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), one of the most award-winning special-effects firms in Hollywood, captured movements of real Dalmatian puppies using special motion capture equipment to help create a screen full of puppies in 101 Dalmatians. ILM was started by George Lucas in 1975 to provide the special effects for Star Wars. From this start, ILM went on to provide effects for 10 of the highest-grossing films of all time. The company also won about 30 Academy Awards. In addition to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, ILM has provided special visual effects for Forrest Gump, The Mask and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, among others.
ILM created some of the first wholly computer-generated characters for The Abyss and Jurassic Park, and other films [source: Industrial Light and Magic]. Today, ILM and other special effects companies combine computer graphics with models and miniatures and the latest in animation to bring moviegoers outstanding visual effects. The company now has a channel on YouTube that shares some behind-the-scenes peeks at how they come up with their special effects [source: Wood].
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