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Glass matte Studio backlot tank with model ships.
1920s


The major U.S. and European film studios establish effects departments to accommodate the demand for visual and mechanical effects.

1925
Willis O'Brien is technical director of "The Lost World," for which he animates 49 prehistoric animals with stop motion. Astonished critics wonder if the creatures are real.

1925
Ben Hur Hanging miniature of coliseum for "Ben Hur".

The $4 million epic "Ben-Hur" is released. The ill-starred production begins with location shooting in Italy and is recalled to the studio, amid skyrocketing costs and rumors that extras were killed in the filming of a sea battle. Back in Hollywood, Cedric Gibbons and A. Arnold Gillespie devise special effects to complete the film, including a hanging miniature. Forty two cameras cover the climactic chariot race scene. Five horses are killed in a chariot wreck.

1927
Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" premieres, featuring a dazzling array of state-of-the-art special effects techniques: miniatures, glass shots, mechanical effects, and animation. Lang's virtuoso effects artist, Eugene Shuftan, also invents the Shuftan process, which allows full-size actors to appear in miniature sets through a variation on the glass shot.

1928

Lynn Dunn Linwood Dunn with Acme-Dunn optical printer
Linwood G. Dunn joins RKO Pictures and raises optical printing to an art form in his 25-year tenure, contributing to classics like "Flying Down to Rio," "Citizen Kane," and "King Kong." With Cecil Love, Dunn designs the Oscar-winning Acme-Dunn Special Effects optical printer. The optical printer remains the foundation of visual effects until the 1990s, when digital compositing becomes feasible. Dunn continued his influential career until 1998.

Continue: 1930s



Photos: (1,2) Bison Archives; (3) Linwood Dunn.

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