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Special Effects

Sean Cubitt

Subject Communication Studies » Visual and Non-verbal Communication

Key-Topics cinema, film

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Special effects are those techniques employed in moving image technologies to provide images other than those recorded by simply opening the camera's shutter and recording. In some cases the entire image may be produced using non-camera techniques. Alternatively, events may be staged or images altered to produce special effects. Special effects (hereafter “effects”) may usefully be divided between (1) physical effects produced in front of the camera; (2) effects produced in the camera; (3) effects produced during printing; and (4) effects produced during editing. A fifth, relatively rare category of effects is produced at the point of reception (→  Film Production ). Christian Metz (1974) identified five →  codes of →  cinema: →  Photography , music, dialogue, sound effects, and writing. He did not include a graphical code for →  animation , even for the ubiquitous rostrum camera animation of title sequences. And yet, since animation in its various forms is the earliest of all special effects (in the work of J. Stuart Blackton, Emile Cohl, and Georges Méliès) and ubiquitous in contemporary effects work, it should be understood not only as a code, but perhaps the code of the moving image. The →  cartoon employs “cel animation,” in which individual drawings are photographed frame by frame. In many studio-produced animations, these drawings are created on transparent cels, which ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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