The modern era of technology has brought advancements and options for media that help create experiences and places that push the boundaries of imagination. Almost all forms of media have benefited from the technological advances flooding the market, with movies and television certainly being no exception. Visual effects, or VFX, have become a staple of the craft and allow filmmakers to achieve their visions more easily than ever. So, what is VFX and how do companies like Media Monsters use it? Learn more about the incredible field here.
Visual effects, VFX, or VX are used in movies, television shows, commercials, online and more as ways of bringing a creator’s vision to life in any setting. They are imagery created or manipulated for any film that does not occur during live-action shooting. It melds actual footage shot in real-time along with enhanced or manipulated imagery to make something new. The end product combines these two ingredients into a new scene with realistic environments that add new context and quality to a scene.
The main benefit of the process is creating environments and scenes that would otherwise be impossible or too dangerous to film. The convenience allows for a scene to take place in locations as varied and wild as can be imagined by the filmmakers. The process uses computer-generated images or CGI and various software programs to achieve the results needed. The people in charge of these effects are referred to as VFX producers. They communicate with producers, directors, and cinematographers to understand what scenes need to achieve a particular vision.
Bear in mind that visual effects and special effects are different from one another. Visual effects are computer-based while special effects are not. Special effects or SFX are done on set and involve things recorded live. Things like live explosions, gunfights, stunts, and the like. VFX can push the boundaries of realism far past what SFX can convey, creating scenes that range from the deep ocean to outer space.
Types of VFX
There are several VFX production levels that each have their own purposes and requirements. These mostly depend on the type of VFX being used, such as:
Another name for it is chroma-keying, where VFX artists take visual elements from different origins and make them seem like they are in the same place. It is a process requiring a green and blue screen that will then be replaced later in post-production. The earlier forms of compositing were actually done using paintings. Matte paintings that depicted a landscape were added alongside live-action footage.
GGI Effects, or digitally created VFX, are computer graphics made in a variety of styles but mainly pertaining to 3D VFX. 3D modeling is the most commonly used aspect of this VFX type, where an object is modeled to create an image of anything that can be imagined. With the help of the right artist, even the mythical can be modeled and placed alongside living, breathing actors and places. That is the most obvious form of 3D VFX, but there are other uses, like adding characters into backgrounds or altering an actor’s appearance.
Motion Capture or mocap, is when an actor’s movements are digitally recorded before being transferred to a 3D model. The process can get as detailed as recording an actor’s facial expressions. A suit is usually used and can transfer data to a computer where it is mapped onto a 3D skeleton.
The VFX Process
The actual process of adding VFX to a project can be long and difficult. It involves several steps and multiple levels of planning and work. Each step comes with its own challenges, and without the proper help or professional knowledge, it can easily become overwhelming.
A mistake could set the project back if done wrong, costing time and money. VFX production occurs mainly in the post-production phase of filming, but it still has some part to play in other aspects of production. The VFX process includes:
- Storyboarding and animatics, where visual representations of what will occur in each scene are drawn up. Character movement is analyzed while settings are discussed, giving the VFX team an idea of their upcoming workload. Remember that VFX and animation are different and have different needs.
- Pre-vis then takes the storyboarding further, with 3D models being made to help visualize and plan out scenes even further. The production team is brought in on this stage to keep things focused.
- Design and Concept art is drawn up to provide VFX specialists with the visuals they need to nail the look and feel of a film. Without this direction, the style and mood of a film could be sloppy and poorly done.
- Camera tracking and matchmove use a 3D camera to generate 3D objects and characters that are integrated into the footage later.
- Layout has the final representation of the sets cemented, and it tells the VFX team what they may need to add to the final production.
- Assets are then modeled for use later in editing.
- The research and development of a film’s needs come into play where VFX artists go over how to best add their work and make sure it fits the setting.
- A rigging team can then start building a digital skeleton for whatever needs modeling before the animators get ahold of it to add the outer layers. Motion capture is used here often to make sure the outer layers are as realistic as possible.
- FX artists can then work on the more subtle details to integrate all the added-in elements. Once the models look good, the surrounding space is changed, with lighting and shadows. These are just some of the elements that require attention.
- Finally, the compositor can stitch it all together to create a seamless piece of media that blends the real and unreal.