Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

The distinction between special effects (SFX) and visual effects (VFX), which simply put are those effects that are shot on-stage and off-stage, respectively, is a relatively new one, introduced in the early 1990s. The distinction was felt necessary due to the growing influence of the use of computers, first as aid in post-production editing and later as generator of visual effects themselves. Prior to the 1990s, from the very beginning of the motion picture industry, all such effects were invariably referred to as "special effects". The, until then, synonymous term "visual effects" also existed, but it was rarely used, "special effects" by far the most commonly used denomination. Acceptance of the distinction was a slow one, particularly among production staffers born and bred with the traditional methods of effects production. Since the traditional usage of the term was so well established, the new distinction has led to considerable confusion in several period publications, as the two terms were used interchangeably. The publications of the Starlog Press, for example, never adopted the term "visual effects", whereas Industrial Light & Magic had "invented" the term "Special Visual Effects" for their early 1980s productions, dutifully carried over to the articles of the magazine Cinefantastique, covering the subject. Yet, by the second half of the 2000s the distinction between the two has become firmly established.

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