Visual effects (or VFX) are the processes through which “imagery is created, altered, or enhanced for a film or other moving media, that cannot be accomplished during live action shooting.” Hollywood blockbusters are often rich in visual effects. Most of these big budget films will have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of visual effects shots. However, visual effects are also used in nearly every other visual medium as well: low budget film, TV, commercials, games, and even print. Whether or not you notice them, VFX are nearly always present in a high quality media product.
Visual effects include:
- Greenscreen/Bluescreen keying
- CGI (character animation, 3D object animation, virtual sets, set extensions)
- Motion Graphics integration with live-action footage
- Simulations (which includes particles, sand, rain, snow, fog, explosions)
Why Visual Effects?
There are a few reasons to consider visual effects.
- We use visual effects to create scenes which would be difficult or impossible to film in real life due to the practicality or cost of building a set, traveling to a distant location, or imagining an environment that does not exist in the real world.
- Some concepts may call for an action that is unsafe to film practically.
- To supplement or enhance footage that has been shot practically.
Although visual effects are completed during the post-production phase of a project, it is essential that we begin planning for them during pre-production. The ability to pull off a concept may be dependent on the type of VFX work needed, so it is important that we understand what will be required before moving ahead with a particular concept.
Once we understand the scope of VFX work required, lock in a concept, and complete the final draft of the script, we can begin to storyboard for VFX on a shot by shot basis. In some instances, we may create a previsualization (or “pre-viz”) animation for a particular shot (or shot sequence), especially if it’s a complicated shot with lots of moving pieces. Pre-viz animations are simple and quick to produce, but they can save lots of time during production and post-production.
Once we move into production, the storyboards and pre-viz will act as a guide for us to capture what we need on production day. Having a VFX Supervisor on set during production will ensure that all shots are executed correctly.
Post-production is where the VFX magic will begin to take shape. Once an edit is locked, any visual effects work will be completed. All of the planning and work during pre-production and production will make the post-production process move efficiently.
 The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures, Jeffrey A. Okun & Susan Zwerman, Publisher: Focal Press 2010