Los Angeles Times: Exhibit Explores the Magic of Movie and TV Special Effects
During the early days of silent films, movie producers solved the problem of location shooting by a simple device. A motor driven carrousel with a panoramic painting of a rugged outdoor setting was installed in the studio. Place an actor mounted on a horse in front of the rotating wheel and the illusion recorded on film was that he was moving across the terrain. A later improvement was to combine moving figures with backgrounds filmed at distant locations. They were called traveling mattes. In those early years before the advent of sound, the process was known as trick photography.
Today this is called special effects–using, among other things, miniatures and the most sophisticated electronic hardware to create visual illusions so real that they turn fantasy into on-screen reality.