More movies than ever now utilize elaborate and amazing special effects. But it's easy to make things on screen look great when you've got the name brand of, say, Industrial Light and Magic behind you. What about the smaller guys, the ones without that sweet George Lucas cash? This edition of the SJ Awards goes out to them—the best special effects houses of 2011.


This special effects house (founded in Santa Monica, California by Greg and Colin Strause) have handled their fair share of big movies. They even made their own big movie, called "Skyline," in 2010. But in 2011 they lent their services to one of the most startling independent films to come out in quite some time: "Take Shelter." One doesn't normally associate independent dramas with scenes of CGI disaster, but Hydraulx brings Michael Shannon's apocalyptic visions in the film to life.

Method Studios

Another unorthodox special effects showcase in 2011 came in the form of "J. Edgar." While the head of the FBI didn't fight against any CGI-friendly aliens or robots (that are public knowledge, anyway), Method Studios did the subtle work of bringing many different eras of American history to picture-perfect life. The studio, which has also produced many well-known advertising campaigns, was founded by Dan Glass in Los Angeles, California.

Rhythm & Hues

In addition to having one of the best names of any special effects company, Rhythm & Hues was responsible for eye-popping visuals in 2011 movies as diverse as "X-Men: First Class" and "Mr. Popper's Penguins." Founded in Los Angeles in 1987 by Keith Goldfarb, Pauline Ts'o, John Hughes, Frank Wuts, Charles Gibson and Cliff Boulé, Rhythm & Hues continues to be one of the best special effects houses in operation today.