By Victor van der Merwe

The world of visual effects is becoming an ever more crucial part of the film industry. CGI and 3D modelling is not just for monster movies and aliens anymore and as movies evolve, it is amazing to see what the visual effects departments can do. Having an actor fly on a dragon is impressive, but what can be even more amazing is subtle changes a person in the VFX department can make to make fabricated scenes look realistic. Here are five films that subtly use special effects to enhance their stories.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese used a real lion in Wolf of Wall Street. However, that lion was never with the actors. Thanks to amazing overlay technology improved since Forrest Gump’s time, The lion handler was removed in post and lions and actors seemed very comfortable with each other. CGI was used to make up complete locations and enhance existing ones as Scorsese saw fit. 

Forrest Gump

The 1994 Oscar winner for best effects went to the Drama, Forrest Gump. Ken Ralston, whose earlier work includes movies like Return of the Jedi and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? transported us back to the past by having Tom Hanks shake hands with three dead presidents. Using a blue screen to superimpose Hanks over the footage of Kennedy shaking hands with Alice O’ Grady, Forrest got to tell the real JFK that he had to go pee. Amazing editing combined with blue screen technology made this scene as real as possible. 

The Social Network

There is only one Armie Hammer, but David Fincher needed two of him for the role of the Winklevoss twins in the movie The Social Network. Model Josh Pence was called in to be the body of Tyler Winklevoss. Through the CGI process of face replacement, Hammer’s face was digitally overlaid onto Pence’s body and identical twins were created. Because of digital cameras this visual effect can be done without the need of Pence wearing a green mask for the entire shoot. 

A Beautiful Mind 

What do you do if you are Ron Howard and you want to shoot a scene where Russel Crow thinks his imaginary friend is watching the baby in a slowly filling bath tub? Well, parents love getting their babies into the movies, but having them almost drown is a deal breaker. The baby was filmed in a dry bathtub. A shot of that exact same bath tub was overlaid making it seem like a real baby was in a tub of rising water. Paying attention to the smallest details from movement to light, the FX team made that scene as real as possible. 

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

It is not just big budget movies that can benefit from visual effects. Robert Rodriguez is amazing at sharing how he does his visual effects in his movies and the low budget action movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico has Salma Hayek throw knives with laser precision. She is a great actress and with the help of some CGI and on set visual effects like air canisters, she can throw a fist full of blades at Antonio Banderas and not so much as cut a lock of his hair. 

Visual Effects have been a part of the film industry since the beginning. It has given us realistic dinosaurs and ghosts and even helped zombies come to life. If used right, it can make your wildest imaginations come to life. The opportunities in the field are ever expanding and every person in that department has a real effect on the final cut of every film they work on.