A Brief History of Visual Effects In Film

The film media has long used visual magic in creating special effects for moviegoers. Few people may realize that the first special effect used was the human eye. In 1824, a British Physician first reported on an odd finding involving the human eye. He described how the eye could be tricked into seeing a smooth flow of images when individual frames were shown at a high rate of speed. The physicians name was Peter Mark Roget, and his finding was called the Phenomenon of Visual Persistence. It would long be the most important visual effect in a field that could not exist without it.

The next types of visual effects were done with a camera and were known as in-camera effects. These included things such as jumps and superimposition to create an effect such as in Vertigo by Alford Hitchcock. Another type of special effects used in the early film was the use of miniatures. Some of the earliest efforts in this area were, let's face it, laughable. Almost everyone can remember a movie about the Titanic that showed a toy boat in what appeared to be a swimming pool that then crashed into some ice cubes.

Now compare those early scenes with the most modern version of Titanic. A miniature model of the Titanic was filmed in less than five feet of water. The results were truly amazing, showing the individual stories of passengers and crew member. Next on the scene were visual effects in the area of optical effects. These were such effects as fades, dissolves, blow-ups and zooms.

Today most visual effects are done with cell animation, scale modeling, prosthetic and makeup along with computer generated animation and tactics. Makeup especially has grown. It was in the 1980's that An American Werewolf In London won the Academy Award for best makeup for Rick Backer. Since then the field of visual effects has continued to grow thanks to people such as John Textor.

John Textor started out having a career in investment banking having earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Wesleyan University in 1987. He would enter the world of visual effects when he became Chairman of Digital Effects and its parent company Digital Domain Media Group in 2006. Over the years, both companies have gone on to do the special effects for over 80 feature films. 25 of those were led by Mr. Textor and included The Transformers, Tron: Legacy.

In 2009, John Textor became responsible for something many audience members thought was still in the future. He created the first believable digital human actor in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The effect was near perfect. Mr. Textor won the Achievement Award in Visual Effects for that year and a CLIO for advertising awards.