In the late 1890s, the great Georges Melies stumbled upon the effect of film editing by fixing film that had jammed in his hand cranked camera. He had to cut the bad film and paste the pieces together so it would play correctly. What he discovered would change the movie industry forever. After that, Melies was playing around with making people disappear or having someone turn to a skeleton all with the editing. He made some of the most spectacular movies the industry has ever known and it was all by hand.
The next big craze became animation. This was done as many different drawings or clay figures in slightly different poses to create a fluid picture when they were run consecutively. Walt Disney has been one of the most well known in the animation field. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was their first success and was followed by many more even into today's generation. Snow White was the first full length animated movie in a theater and amazed audiences in 1936.
The 1950s and 60s brought about great strides in effects and editing. It is said that it is some of the best of all time. "The Ten Commandments" is one of those and the scene of Moses parting the Red Sea is revered as one of the best effects done before there were computers. Stunts became vital to the action side of films, however, stunt crews rarely received much credit.
With the making of "The Clash of the Titans" came the introduction of Tippet's technique called "go-motion". It took the freezing of the frame off the table and used a blurring technique to make the film appear more realistic. It was quite favorable.
But it was George Lucas in the 70s that stepped up the game when he opened his own studio in order to film his "Star Wars" creations. His greatest contribution was the use of motion controlled cameras, instilling a new sense of reality in the audience. The spaceships used were merely models, yet were filmed using a method developed by John Dykstra. He won Oscars for his contributions on the film. Star Wars is still viewed as one of the greatest special effects movies of all time as well.
From there we grow more digital, incorporating the green screen, more advanced moving cameras and more elaborate stunts. Editing can be achieved on a computer not cutting and pasting long strings of celluloid together. Color is rich and vivid, not having to be hand painted slide by slide any longer.
We have grown so much in a short amount of time in creating new worlds and alternate realities. Movies such as Men in Black 3 and The Amazing Spiderman. Special effects are vital in our progress in how believable our entertainment is. It sure makes me wonder where else we can go with our imaginations.