When it comes to special effects that enhance and not take away from the shot the first one that came to my mind was the scene from The Matrix that’s called The Rooftop Showdown, where ‘Neo’ played by Keanu Reeves is going to encounter the ‘Agent.’. This sci-fi movie released in 1999, is about a dystopian future world where humans are used by machines as energy source and the reality that they perceive is a simulated reality called “The Matrix”.
Per Wikipedia, this visual effect is known as “bullet time” in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera’s viewpoint appears to move through the scene at normal speed.1 The camera shot at 00:38 started behind Neo then it cranes around him with the bullet path showing on his left and right. The transition occurs with the bullet seeming to go straight to the camera or the audience. Super exciting!
The other special effect I am choosing not only does not take away from the scene, but is a vital part of the story. The scene is the Parting of the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments. This Cecil B DeMille’s classic is an amazing effect when I was growing up. Researching how it was done was even more amazing. Filmed in 1956, it was apparently the most difficult special effect ever performed up to that time. The effect took about six months of filming, and combined scenes shot on the shores of the Red Sea in Egypt, with scenes filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood of a huge water tank split by a U-shaped trough, into which approximately 360,000 gallons of water were released from the sides, as well as the filming of a giant waterfall also built on the Paramount backlot to create the effect of the walls of the parted sea out of the turbulent backwash.2 I’ve never paid much attention to the amount of work needed to achieve the much-needed special effects. This is a revelation!