Visual Effects is the term used to describe any imagery created, altered or enhanced that cannot be accomplished during live action shooting. The three main reasons filmmakers use Visual Effects are when the real thing is too expensive, too dangerous or too impossible to capture on camera. For example, Visual Effects can be a more practical and economical choice when representing a massive army of soldiers. Sometimes the narrative calls for actors to be in life-threatening situations, like hanging off of a tall building by a few fingers. And other times Visual Effects are used to depict entire fantasy worlds that simply don’t exist.
Visual Effects should not be confused with special effects, sometimes called practical effects, which are physically created on set and actually filmed. Explosions, rain and stunts would fall into this category, but new technology has blurred the line between the two, as post-production Visual Effects work is frequently used to enhance the work of special effects artists.
The first most famous visual effect was in the 1895 film, The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots
Audiences love the spectacle of Visual Effects, but these advances—the extraordinary amount of skill and imagination and perseverance to create more believable, more sensational, more fantastical images—were all created to tell a better story.