[This is a work in progress. We want to develop the most complete available list of bibliographic references (both print and electronic) to books and articles related to the study of special and visual effects. We invite additions and suggestions from any readers out there who would like to assist us in this project. You will be credited for your contribution. Email us at, or leave a comment at the bottom of this page.]

General History & Theory

[Books and articles offering an overview of the history and practice of special effects, or the role of technology/spectacle in film.]


Brosnan, John (1974) Movie Magic: The Story of Special Effects in the Cinema. London: MacDonald & Jane’s.

—— (1991) The Primal Screen: A History of Science Fiction Film. London: Orbit Books.

Bukatman, Scott (2003) Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century. Durham: Duke University Press.

—— (1993) Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction. Durham, N.C. & London: Duke University Press.

Clark, Frank P. (1966) Special Effects in Motion Pictures. New York: Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Cubitt, Sean (2004) The Cinema Effect. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Finch, Christopher (1984) Special Effects: Creating Movie Magic. New York: Abbeville Press.

Hamilton, Jake (1998) Special Effects in Film and Television. Dorling Kindersley Publishing.

Harryhausen, Ray & Tony Dalton (2008) A Century of Model Animation. Aurum Press.

Imes, Jack (1984) Special Visual Effects: A Guide to Special Effects Cinematography. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

King, Geoff (2000) Spectacular Narratives: Hollywood in the Age of the Blockbuster. London: I.B. Tauris.

Klein, Norman (2004) The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects. The New Press.

Landon, Brooks (1992) The Aesthetics of Ambivalence: Rethinking Science Fiction Film in the Age of Electronic (Re)Production. Westport, Connecticut & London: Greenwood Press.

Netzley, Patricia D. (2000) Encyclopedia of Movie Special Effects. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx.

North, Dan (2008) Performing Illusions: Cinema, Special Effects and the Virtual Actor. London: Wallflower Press.

Pierson, Michele (2002) Special Effects: Still in Search of Wonder. Columbia University Press.

Pinteau, Pascal (2004) Special Effects: An Oral History. Harry N. Abrams.

Rickitt, Richard (2006) Special Effects: The History and Technique. Aurum Press Ltd.

Rovin, Jeff (1977) From the Land Beyond Beyond: The Making of the Movie Monsters You’ve Known and Loved. New York: Berkley Windhover Books.

Salt, Barry (1983) Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis. London: Starword.

Sobchack, Vivian, ed. (2000) Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—— (1988) Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. 2nd Ed. New York: Ungar.

Springer, Claudia (1996) Electronic Eros: Bodies and Desire in the Post-industrial Age. London: The Athlone Press.

Warrick, Patricia S. (1980) The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: The MIT Press.


Baird, Robert (2000) “The Startle Effect: Implications for Spectator Cognition and Media Theory.” Film Quarterly 53:3, 12-24, 51-74.

Creed, Barbara (2000) “The Cyberstar: Digital Pleasures and the End of the Unconscious.” Screen 41:1, 79-86.

Duncan, Jody (2005) “State of the Art: A Cinefex 25th Anniversary Forum.” Cinefex 100 (January): 17-107.

Fiebiger, Daniel. “Special Visual Effects.” Cinefantastique 27.11-12 (July): 64-75.

Flanagan, Mary (1999) “Mobile Identities, Digital Stars and Post-Cinematic Selves.” Wide Angle 21.1 (January): 76-93.

Gentleman, Wally (1982) “Visual Effects as a Cinematic Art Form.” American Cinematographer (January): 32-33, 80-81, 87-89.

Grant, Barry Keith (1999) “‘Sensuous Elaboration’: Reason and the Visible in the Science-Fiction Film,” in Annette Kuhn (ed.) Alien Zone II: The Spaces of Science Fiction Cinema. London: Verso, 16-30.

Klein, Norman M. (2000) “Animation and Animorphs: A Brief Disappearing Act”, in V. Sobchack (ed.) Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick Change. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press, 21-39.

Koslovic, A. K. (2003) “Technophobic Themes in Pre-1990 Computer Films.” Science as Culture, 12:3, 341-73.

Landon, Brooks (2002) “Synthespians, Virtual Humans, and Hypermedia: Emerging Contours of Post-SF Film”, in V. Hollinger & J. Gordon (eds.) Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 55-72.

—— (1999) “Diegetic or Digital? The Convergence of Science-Fiction Literature and Science-Fiction Film in Hypermedia”, in Annette Kuhn (ed.) Alien Zone II: The Spaces of Science Fiction Cinema. London: Verso, 31-49.

—— (1992) “The Aesthetics of Ambivalence: Spectacle and Special Effects, Trickery, and Discovery”, in The Aesthetics of Ambivalence: Rethinking Science Fiction Film in the Age of Electronic (Re)Production. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 61-92.

La Valley, Albert J. (1985) “Traditions of Trickery: The Role of Special Effects in the Science Fiction Film”, in George Slusser & Eric S. Rabkin (eds.) Shadows of the Magic Lamp: Fantasy and Science Fiction in Film. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 141-158.

Metz, Christian (1977) “Trucage and the Film.” Trans. Françoise Meltzer. Critical Inquiry 3 (Summer): 657-675.

Ndalianis, Angela (2000) “Special Effects, Morphing Magic, and the 1990s Cinema of Attractions”, in Vivian Sobchack (ed.) Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 251-271.

Neale, Steve (1990) “‘You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding!’: Knowledge, Belief, and Judgment in Science Fiction”, in Annette Kuhn (ed.) Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema. London: Verso, 160-168.

North, Dan (2005) “Virtual Actors, Spectacle and Special Effects: Kung Fu Meets ‘All That CGI Bullshit’,” in Stacy Gillis (ed.) The Matrix Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded. London: Wallflower Press, 48-61.

Prince, Stephen (2004) “The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts: Cinema and Cinematography in the Digital Era.” Film Quarterly 57.3 (Spring): 24-33.

—— (1996) “True Lies: Perceptual Realism, Digital Images, and Film Theory.” Film Quarterly 49.3 (Spring): 27-37.

Spielmann, Yvonne (1999) “Expanding Film into Digital Media.” Screen 40.2: 131-145.

Stix, Gary (1996) “Special Effects: Pictures Worth a Thousand Cameras.” Scientific American 275.5 (November): 46.

Sutton, Damian (2004) “The DreamWorks Effect: The Case for Studying the Ideology of Production Design.” Screen 45:4, 383-90.

Stern, Megan (2004) “Jurassic Park and the Moveable Feast of Science.” Science as Culture 13.3: 347-72.

Tafler, Donald I. (1999) “When Analog Cinema Becomes Digital Memory.” Wide Angle 21.1: 181-204

Paul Willemen (2006) “Of Mice and Men: Reflections on Eisenstein and Digital Imagery.” Rouge 8.

New Media & Digital Technology

[Books and articles offering theoretical or historical approaches to the study of new media technologies, especially those related to digital technologies.]

Darley, Andrew (2000) Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres. New York: Routledge.

Hillis, Ken (1999) Digital Sensations: Space, Identity Embodiment in Virtual Reality. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mitchell, William J. (1998) The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Thalmann, Nadia Magnenat & Daniel Thalmann (1994) Artificial Life and Virtual Reality. Chichester/New York/Brisbane/Toronto/Singapore: John Wiley & Sons.


[Books and articles focused on particular techniques or processes related to special and visual effects for film.]


Brinkmann, Ron (2008) The Art and Science of Digital Compositing: Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphics. Morgan Kaufmann.

Debreceni, Todd (2009) Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen: Making and Applying Prosthetics. Focal Press.

Ettedgui, Peter (1999) Production Design & Art Direction. Woburn, MA: Focal Press.

Fielding, Raymond (1965) The Technique of Special-Effects Cinematography. London: Focal.

Holman, L. Bruce (1975) Puppet Animation in the Cinema: History and Technique. London: The Tantivy Press.

Okun, Jeffrey A. & Susan Zwerman (2010) The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures. Focal Press.

Parent, Richard (2001) Computer Animation. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.

Pettigrew, Richard (1998) The Stop Motion Filmography. London: McFarland & Company.

Sawicki, Mark (2007) Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography. Focal Press.

Vaz, Mark Cotta & Craig Baron (2004) The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting. Chronicle Books.

Wright, Steve (2010) Digital Compositing for Film and Video. Focal Press.


Dixon, Wheeler Winston (1994) “The Doubled Image: Montgomery Tully’s Boys in Brown and the Independent Frame process” in Wheeler Winston Dixon (ed.) Reviewing British Cinema, 1900-1992. New York: State University of New York Press.

Geuens, Jean-Pierre (1996) “Through the Looking Glass: From the Camera Obscura to Video Assist.” Film Quarterly 49.3: 16-25.

Companies & Artists

[Books and articles concerning individual technicians, artists, directors and performers with particular interests in special effects filmmaking, or companies involved in the production of special and visual effects. Arranged in alphabetical order by artist/company (sur)name.]

Irvine, Mat & Mike Tucker (2010) BBC VFX: The Story of the BBC Visual Effects Department. London: Aurum Press.

Corman, Roger & Jim Jerome (1990) How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime. London: Muller.

Mandell, Paul (1978) “John Dykstra.” Cinefantastique 6.4/7.1: 11-17.

Harryhausen, Ray & Tony Dalton (2009) Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life. Aurum Press.

Vaz, Mark Cotta & Patricia Rose Duignan (1996) Industrial Light and Magic: Into the Digital Realm. London: Virgin.

Paul Mandell (1978) “Joseph Johnston.” Cinefantastique 6.4/7.1: 77-78.

Baxter, John (1999) Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas. New York: Avon Books.

Hearn, Marcus (2005) The Cinema of George Lucas. New York: Harry N. Abrams.

Pollock, Dale (1990) Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas. Hollywood, CA: Samuel French.

Smith, Jim (2003) George Lucas. London: Virgin Books.

Shubrook, Martin & Paul Shubrook (2008) Special Effects Superman: The Miniature Effects of Derek Meddings. Shubrook Brothers.

Archer, Steve (1993) Willis O’Brien: Special Effects Genius. Jefferson NC & London: McFarland.

Ragone, August (2007) Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Duncan, Jody (2006) The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio. Titan Books.



Agel, Jerome (1970) The Making of Kubrick’s 2001. New York: New American Library.

Chion, Michael (2001) Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey. London: British Film Institute.

Duncan, Jody (2002) Mythmaking: Behind the Scenes of Attack of the Clones. New York: Del Ray.

Elsaesser, Thomas (2000) Metropolis. London: British Film Institute.

Erb, Cynthia (1998) Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Harmetz, Aljean (1998) The Making of the Wizard of Oz. New York: Hyperion.

Geduld, Harry & Ronald Gottesman, eds. (1976) The Girl in the Hairy Paw. New York: Avon Books.

Goldner, Orville & George E. Turner (1975) The Making of King Kong: The Story Behind a Film Classic. London: The Tantivy Press.

Gordon, Devin (2002 – 3) “The Matrix Makers.” Newsweek 141.1 (30 December & 6 January): 80-89.

Morton, Ray (2005) King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.

Shay, Don & Jody Duncan (1993) The Making of Jurassic Park. London: Boxtree.

Stork, David G., ed. (1997) Hal’s Legacy: 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality. London & Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Titelman, Carol, ed. (1979) The Art of Star Wars. New York: Ballantine Books.

Wake, Jenny (2005) The Making of King Kong: The Official Guide to the Motion Picture. London: Pocket Books.


Anderson, Kay (1982) “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: How the TV Series Became a Hit Movie, At Last.” Cinefantastique12.5-6 (July-August): 51-74.

Benidt, Jennifer (1985) “The Terminator.” Cinefex 21 (April): 4-23.

Buckland, Warren (1999) “Between Science Fact and Science Fiction: Spielberg’s Digital Dinosaurs, Possible Worlds, and the New Aesthetic Realism.” Screen 40.2: 177-92.

Croal, N’Gai (1999) “Maximizing the Matrix.” Newsweek 133.6 (19 April): 64-5.

Duncan, Jody (2001) “Final Fantasy: Flesh for Fantasy.” Cinefex 86 (July): 33-44, 127-29.

Kennedy, X.J. (1972) “Who Killed King Kong?” in Roy Huss and T.J. Ross (eds.) Focus on the Horror Film. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, inc., 106-109

Lévy, Jean (1988) “Review of King Kong” in Richard Abel (ed.) French Film Theory and Criticism, 1907-1939: Volume II, 1929-1939. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,137-140.

Naremore, James (2005) “Love and Death in A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” Michigan Quarterly 44.2 (Spring): 256-284.

Patterson, Richard (1982) “The Making of Tron.” American Cinematographer 63.8: 792-795, 813-819.

Prince, Stephen  (1996) “True Lies: Perceptual Realism, Digital Images and Film Theory.” Film Quarterly 49.3 (Spring): 27-37.

Rony, Fatimah Tobing (2000) “King Kong and the Monster in Ethnographic Cinema”, in Ken Gelder (ed.) The Horror Reader. London & New York: Routledge, 242-250.

Silberman, Steve (2003) “Matrix2,” Wired 11.5 (May): NP.

Early Cinema


Baker, Larry Nile ( ) A History of Special Effects Cinematography in the United States 1894 – 1914.

Barnouw, Erik (1981) The Magician and the Cinema. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

During, Simon (2002) Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic. Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press.

Ezra, Elizabeth (2000) Georges Méliès: The Birth of the Auteur. Manchester & New York, Manchester University Press.

Solomon, Matthew, ed. (2011) Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon. Albany: SUNY Press.

—— (2010) Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century. University of Illinois Press.

Talbot, Frederick A. (1912) Moving Pictures: How they are Made and Worked. London: William Heinemann.


Chanan, Michael (1996) “The Treats of Trickery” in Christopher Williams (ed.) Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future. London: University of Westminster Press, 117-122.

Cubitt, Sean (1999) “Phalke, Méliès, and Special Effects Today.” Wide Angle 21.1 (January): 114-130.

Gunning, Tom (1997) “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator,” in Linda Williams (ed.) Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 114-133.

—— (1990) “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde,” in Thomas Elsaesser (ed.) Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative. London: BFI, 56-62.

Méliès, Georges (1988 [1906]) “Cinematographic Views” in Richard Abel (ed.) French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology Volume 1: 1907-1929. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 35-47.

Pearson, Roberta E. (1996) “The Attractions of Cinema, or, How I Learned to Start Worrying about Loving Early Film”, in Christopher Williams (ed.), Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future. London: University of Westminster Press, 150-157

Solomon, Matthew (2000) “Twenty-Five Heads under One Hat: Quick-Change in the 1890s”, in Vivian Sobchack (ed.) Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change. Minnesota: University of Minneapolis Press, 3-20.

Websites Digital Compositing and Visual Effects. Online Community Dedicated to Digital Compositing, 3D Animation and Visual Effects.

Companies & Artists

Digital Domain.

Industrial Light and Magic.

The Orphanage.

Ray Harryhausen

Weta Digital.


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