Special effects aren’t usually exciting anymore. Filmmakers can create worlds and human beings from whole cloth now, so digital trickery doesn’t wow like it used to. 100 years ago, though, every difficult shot took a herculean effort.
The Twitter account Silent Movie GIFs recently shared a few explanations for how silent films pulled off their most difficult shots. Many involve the clever use of matte paintings and partially blocked shots. In the above clip from Sherlock Jr., the motorcycle and trucks were filmed separately; the rest of each shot was blacked out, then both were combined.
The level of work needed to pull off even the simplest shots makes you appreciate how relatively easily we can now throw Spider-Man into a movie.