Visual effects terminology: This visual effects vocabulary explains everything about VFX lingo

Visual effects may be seen in every aspect of modern cinema, from the mind-boggling extravaganza of fantasy blockbusters to the subtle integration of FX in realistic dramas that audiences may not even notice.

Visual effects businesses worldwide are responsible for creating the modern computer-generated (CG) movie magic that we see today. These companies employ legions of animators and artists who use specialised software to create ever more realistic scenes.

The procedures of generating visual effects, like those used in any other business, come with their own unique vocabulary and technical words. The following is a short glossary of some of the most frequent terminology that you will need to be familiar with.

Early Development

Oscar Rejlander produced a montaged combination print in 1857, which is considered to be the earliest image with "special effects." This was accomplished by blending various areas of 32 separate negatives into a single image. Alfred Clark is credited with creating what is now considered to be the world's first-ever special effect for a moving picture in the year 1895.

Not only was it the first time a trick was used in a movie, but it was also the first time a sort of photographic deception was used that could only be accomplished in a moving image. This type of trickery is known as the "stop trick."


The key tool may also be used with other colours, although it functions most well with blue and green. This is because digital pictures are composed of Red, Green, and Blue channels, respectively. Because many performers have a lot of red in their skin tones, red is not a very suitable colour choice.

There is a tool in the compositing software that goes by the name "key." Examples of this type of software include Adobe After Effects, The Foundry Nuke, and many more. The result of this is that it communicates to the computer that it should regard as transparent any pixels that are of a green or blue hue of this particular shade.

The keying tool will search for all of the pixels that have the same shade of green, and once it does, it will consider those pixels to be transparent.

VFX hd wallpaper of an omega

Blocking pass

Animating computer-generated characters or surroundings in a poor, low-resolution version in order to make changes to them as fast and simply as possible.

Green Screen

This technique, which also goes by the names chromakey, colour key, and blue screen, involves filming performers in front of a coloured backdrop to allow for the addition of a digital setting later.


CG characters with hair and fur that have been produced digitally.

Look Dev

Creating and refining the appearance of a CG asset from scratch.


A rough puppet was created with the intention of being shot and used as a reference for visual effects artists.


Synchronising the motions of the digital components with those of the camera in the original footage.


Autodesk was the company that produced this animation software that became the industry standard.


Compositing software that is built on nodes and is used to combine different parts into one final shot.

Performance Capture

The process of recording actors' motions and facial expressions so that a computer-generated character may be overlaid over them is what's referred to as motion capture, or mo-cap for short.


The authentic, unedited film was shot in the conventional method either on set or in front of a green screen.


The term "previsualization," which is sometimes abbreviated to "previz," refers to a straightforward animation technique that roughly outlines the film's scenes, much like a moving storyboard.


The time-consuming technique of creating a photo-realistic picture with a high resolution from a three-dimensional model using a computer.


Roto artists "cut out" individual items such as actors from the backdrop in the visual effects business so that they may be composited with other elements.


Software that reproduces natural phenomena such as water, fire, and smoke through algorithms, as well as large-scale features such as falling debris or crowds of people.

Matte Paintings

Digital or Traditional paintings or photographs serves as background plates for keyed or rotoscoped elements.


It is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into a single image often to create the illusion that all those elements are part of the same scene.

Takes real-life elements with Computer Generated (CG) elements and puts them together - seeming like they were shot together.

Computer Generated Imagery

It is the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images in art, printed media, video games, films, television programs, commercials, and simulators.

The visual scenes may be dynamic or static and may be two-dimensional (2D), though the term"CGI" is most commonly used to refer to 3D computer graphics used for creating scenes or special effects in films and television.


This technique is used in virtually all animation systems where simplified user

interfaces allow animators to control often complex algorithms.

Skeletal animation is a technique in computer animation in which a character

is represented in two parts: a surface the representation used to draw the character

(called skin or mesh)and a hierarchical set of interconnected bones(called

the skeleton or rig) used to animate the mesh.


This is referring to the bit depth of your film, often known as the amount of colour information that is recorded in your images. The greater the amount of colour information it possesses, the wider the range of colours it will display.

The greater the bit depth, the greater the number of colours that can be stored. It is usual practice to use this word when talking about ideas such as ultra-high definition (UHD) or high dynamic range (HDR).


Effects of a special kind. Despite the fact that they are not visual effects, it is nonetheless important to distinguish between the two. Special effects, in contrast to visual effects, are actual effects that are performed on sets, such as explosions or stunts.

Visual effects are assets that are developed digitally. It may also involve the use of cosmetics or photographic effects. People frequently get SFX and VFX mixed together.


The technique of analysing the acquired video of a scene in order to determine the movement of objects inside that scene (in relation to the camera) is referred to as tracking. The placement of tracking points in an image is necessary for 2D tracking. It's possible that these are tracking markers that have been set there or spots on the things that are being monitored.

3D tracking, which is also known as match moving, is the technique of extracting the camera motion from a live-action plate in order to recreate it in a computer-generated (CG) environment. This is done in order to create a more lifelike representation of the scene.

Match moves are often crafted by hand, whereas 3D tracking is typically accomplished via the use of specialised software. It is possible to reproduce the motions of a camera in a digital world using a technique called three-dimensional tracking.

You may, for instance, have a shot that moves from left to right as it pans. When you bring in your 3D asset, it has to move from left to right in the same direction and at the same pace so that it seems as though it was truly there. This will provide the illusion that it was actually there.

Production Pipeline

The narrative and overall attractiveness of a movie are frequently enhanced by the use of various visual effects. Even though the majority of work on visual effects is accomplished after post-production, it is typical for this work to need meticulous planning and choreography throughout both pre-production and production.

Visual effects are typically created in post-production using a variety of tools and technologies including graphic design, modelling, animation, and other similar software. While special effects such as explosions and car chases are created on set, the majority of visual effects are created in this stage.

A visual effects supervisor is often engaged in the production from the very beginning. This allows them to collaborate closely with both the production team and the director of the film in order to create, guide, and ultimately manage the teams that are necessary to produce the intended effects.

Digital Domain, DreamWorks Animation, Framestore, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixomondo, Moving Picture Company, and Sony Pictures Imageworks are just a few of the firms that specialise in visual effects.